The FOI Myth #2

As noted in yesterday’s post, Nature recently editorialized:

If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…

Similar sentiments have been expressed elsewhere e.g. New Scientist here.

In today’s post, I’ll review FOI requests to UK institutions for data other than CRU station data and unarchived IPCC review comments, showing that these requests were reasonable, that the use of FOI was entirely appropriate and that complying with FOI requests enabled the matters to be dealt with efficiently and expeditiously. I’ve reserved FOI requests for CRU station data and for unarchived IPCC review comments to separate posts, because they are longer topics and raise different issues. Contemporary CA posts on FOI requests are here.

Thus far, I’ve identified three FOI requests for data other than CRU station data by myself or CA readers to UK institutions, none of which can be reasonably described as “endless, time-consuming demands for information”.

Jones et al 1990
On Feb 22, 2007, I submitted an FOI request to CRU for station lists and data for three networks (Russia, China, Australia) used in Jones et al 1990, which had been cited in IPCC AR4, then newly released. (As noted yesterday, a concurrent request for the same data was made to NOAA in the US.)

This request was expeditiously resolved when the requested information was placed online in April 2007 but not before CRU had first attempted to repudiate the request by making untrue statements to support a claim for FOI exemption. In its initial response, CRU stated (1) that the requested data (even station lists for Jones et al 1990) were already “publicly available” at NOAA, and (2) that they no longer possessed the “rural” data. I immediately asked the FOI officer to reconsider the ruling, observing that (1) it was (obviously) impossible to identify the Jones et al 1990 stations by inspection of the GHCN data sets; (2) my disbelief that Jones et al no longer even possessed a record of what stations they used. FOI officer Palmer quickly resiled from these untrue claims and reported:

upon further investigation and work, we have uncovered the annual input data for the paper of Dr. Jones from 1990.

This data was placed online in April 2007 (See cache here). The release of this data confirmed my previous surmise (see CA here, Feb 22, 2007) that the following representation in Jones et al 1990 about the Chinese network was untrue:

The stations were selected on the basis of station history; we selected those with few, if any changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.

I had surmised this representation was untrue because a contemporary technical report (NOAA NDP039) said of its 205-station Chinese network:

Unfortunately, station histories are not currently available for any of the stations in the 205-station network; therefore, details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times, and official data sources are not known.

This misrepresentation became the theme in numerous 2007 Climategate Letters. One letter from me attached to a thread shows that I suggested that Jones issue a correction notice, something that Kevin Trenberth, an unlikely ally, also suggested. However, Jones decided to do nothing. (Climategate strands lead in all directions – I’m quite prepared to discuss the Wang issues, but would rather do so in a separate thread in a forthcoming post and focus in this thread on FOI compliance issues.)

IPCC AR4 Durbin-Watson Statistics
In May 2007, also arising out of AR4, I submitted a second FOI request to CRU (see post here) regarding the calculation of Durbin-Watson statistics in IPCC AR4, then hot off the press.

Although IPCC is supposed to only use results from peer-reviewed studies, in response to criticisms from Ross McKitrick and Cohn and Lins, Jones inserted his own statistical calculations (including Durbin-Watson statistics for temperature trends) into the AR4 chapter of which he was chapter author. I urge readers to consult the original CA post.

After carefully examining the AR4 references for Jones’ calculation – none of which was precisely on point – I asked Jones to clarify this (non-peer-reviewed) calculation as follows:

In Table 3.2 of IPCC AR4, you refer to Durbin-Watson statistics for various trend calculations, but do not show them. Could you please provide me with these statistics.

I am unfamiliar with any prior use of the Durbin-Watson statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation”. Could you please provide me your statistical reference showing how one calculates a Durbin-Watson statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation” and giving significance levels for the statistic “after allowing for first-order serial correlation”.

Could you please identify the statistical packages used in your calculation of REML trends and Durbin-Watson statistics? Would it be correct to say that (1) fitted a trend to the various series; (2) fitted an AR1 arima model to the residuals from (1)? (3) carried out a Durbin-Watson test on the residuals from (2)?

Where applicable, these requests are made under FOI provisions.
Thank you for your attention, Steve McIntyre

Copying the FOI officer should obviously not have been necessary but the Climategate Letters show unambiguously that Jones and associates had adopted a policy of unresponsiveness. Unlike requests without an FOI number, this request was resolved quickly and in a prompt and professional manner.

Gridded MXD Data Used in Mann et al 2008
Mann et al 2008 used gridded MXD data attributed to Rutherford Mann et al (J Clim 2005). Rutherford et al had stated that the gridded MXD was online at Rutherford’s website, but this was untrue.

In Sep 2008, I sent an FOI request (my third such request to CRU), asking for the gridded MXD data as sent to Mann and associates. I did not ask them for anything new or anything that had not already been sent to others. Had Rutherford et al lived up to their representations to Journal of Climate, the request would not have been necessary.

Whereas previous attempts to obtain this data directly or through the journal (edited by Andrew Weaver) had been unsuccessful, this request through FOI was resolved promptly and expeditiously by CRU placing the requested information on a webpage (see CA discussions here here

Interim Summary
Thus far, over the five year period from 2005 to 2009, I’ve located three UK FOI requests from me or CA readers not involving CRU station data or unarchived IPCC review comments (which I’ll discuss separately.) In making this summary, I’ve reviewed relevant CA threads. If readers are aware of any requests that I’ve missed in this inventory – other than station data/associated confidentiality agreements and IPCC comments, please advise me and I’ll amend accordingly.

Each of these three requests was reasonable and resolved promptly.

At least one of them would have been unnecessary had Rutherford (Mann, Briffa … ) et al complied with their explicit undertakings to Journal of Climate or had Andrew Weaver ensured that they had done so. In any event, complying with this FOI request took negligible effort as precisely the data had already been sent to associates.

In a second case (Durbin-Watson statistics), the FOI request would have been unnecessary if Jones had complied with IPCC policies not to use results not reported in the peer-reviewed-literature. In any event, the request was resolved quickly and professionally.

In the third case (the Jones et al 1990 networks), after a short delay resulting from false statements by CRU, the data was located and placed online and the matter quickly resolved.

Compliance with the FOI requests discussed above cannot reasonably be characterized as “endless, time-consuming demands” under the UK Freedom of Information Acts. A few readers observed yesterday that it was possible that non-CA readers (or CA readers of which I was unaware) had sent “endless, time-consuming demands for information” prior to Climategate. However, there is no evidence of such FOI requests (abusive or otherwise) in the Climategate Letters. Nor has such activity been mentioned at realclimate prior to Climategate. Nor is there evidence of such activity in the NOAA FOI logs.

In our review thus far, the FOI legislation seems to be doing exactly what it was supposed to do – and with negligible effort on the part of the scientists in question. I’ll get to FOI requests for CRU station data and unarchived IPCC review comments in subsequent posts on this theme, following which I’ll make some overall assessment.


  1. chip
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:00 PM | Permalink

    “If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…”

    It’s quite remarkable that a supposed science magazine would oppose what are essentially requests for data so that experiments can be reproduced. They seem to be so twisted in a logical knot that they’re in the position of objecting to the scientific method.

    Readers of Nature and other publications would be better served if the editors would occasionally ask why the fundamental data is not freely available, and why climate scientists are clearly obstructing peer review and the reproduction of their experiments/models.

    • The Man
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:40 PM | Permalink

      Chip, Nature is somewhat more than a “supposed science magazine,” it is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. All the more reason for its editorial comment to exhibit a more disinterested tone in matters of scientific controversy. It is unfortunate that they have chosen not to do so. But more important than that, we should expect that the editors at Nature, knowing the true facts, would not attempt to divert the argument away from scientific issues and towards a discussion of bureaucratic expedience. On the other hand, most practicing scientists do not like bureaucracies, do not like government paperwork, and will (I suspect) be somewhat sympathetic to the claims of the editorial (if they take them at face value). In other words, I think that Nature’s editors have a political base (the warmists) that they wish to support and they believe that framing the FOI issue as they have will not cost them much readership or credibility.

      • Dave
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:59 AM | Permalink

        “it is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world.”

        No. It *was* one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Purely anecdotally, I was speaking the other day to a (very well-respected, tenured, high-profile) academic in a field completely unrelated to climate science who suggested that he would not publish in Nature at the moment for fear of tainting his own reputation. He wants his work to be demonstrably thoroughly reviewed, rather than waved through, because he wants to fix any errors that are pointed out and go down in history as the discoverer of something, rather than just pocketing next year’s research grant.

      • Skeptical Chymist
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:26 AM | Permalink

        It seems to me that these problems are arising because organs and institutions are moving outside their terms of reference or constitutions. Nature, these days, is a hybrid- a mixture of science magazine and scientific journal. No journal recording scientific results used to have “editorial” comment. The editors are using the accumulated prestige of over a century to bolster their personal opinions. In a similar way and for the same reasons, the Royal Society now openly refers to itself as Britain’s National Academy of Science, it is not.
        The journal and the society claim to speak for scientists- they have no mandate to do so. Politicians and the public do not realise this.

      • C. Baxter
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

        ” …it is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world”

        No good for physics, though.

  2. pat
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:23 PM | Permalink

    paul hudson at bbc has a list of various predictions for the coming years. thought it might be of interest. he has a number of sources. some comments are interesting – u link to them from the top of the thread on the line where the date of the thread appears:

    Global temperature predictions for a new decade

    hudson’s previous post on the same page above

    – Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! – Coldest Dec night since 1981 –

    seemed to suggest hudson was very happy about the cold!

  3. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:25 PM | Permalink

    Judith Curry suggested climate scientists put all their info on the Web. Why doesn’t Nature endorse that? It would be the ultimate in transparency and take a minimum amount of time, if that indeed were a concern.

  4. Paul
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:26 PM | Permalink

    Here in NZ we have the Official Information Act. The purpose of the act is to make information available to those who seek it. There are restrictions which can be used but an appeal to the Ombudsman can be made if these restrictions are misused. The people have a right to certain information under the law, as with the acts in other countries. Their complaints should be addressed to the policymakers who introduced such policies in order to prevent exactly what some scientists have been doing, deliberately witholding information which under the law should be made available if requested. It appears they just do not want to be subjected to the same laws as everyone else. Gee, it’s just not fair!!

    Steve: please comment on the specific cases here. New Zealand is OT. And one more time, I’m trying to show that these FOI requests were appropriate and that NAture should not have condemned the FOI requests.

  5. j ferguson
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 9:42 PM | Permalink

    It appears that they did spend time trying to devise a justification for not responding to your FOI requests, time which they likely thought unproductive.

    In the absence of any records, how can you be so certain that there weren’t dozens of other FOI’s? Some unknown others may have provoked such a sensitive response that their existence never found its way into the emails that are included in the climategate collection.

    As I’ve repeatedly said, there’s a difference between evidence and proof. I can’t “prove” that there weren’t dozens of other FOIs, but there’s no evidence of such dozens either in the Climategate Letters or elsewhere.

    • Gerald Machnee
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:12 PM | Permalink

      **Some unknown others may have provoked such a sensitive response that their existence never found its way into the emails that are included in the climategate collection.**
      Wow! What would they have been requesting? I want to hear more.

    • thefordprefect
      Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:11 PM | Permalink

      Steve: As I’ve repeatedly said, there’s a difference between evidence and proof. I can’t “prove” that there weren’t dozens of other FOIs, but there’s no evidence of such dozens either in the Climategate Letters or elsewhere

      As I pointed out on the #1 thread.
      “Also where is the email referenced here:
      it does not appear in the cru hacked mails”

      It appears that the theif/hacker has selective email extraction – perhaps to hide something in McIntyres emails?

      If so then perhaps many FOI email requests have gone this way.

      Jones says in one of the emails that FOI requests are in double figures (no need to lie as these emails were not meant for public presentation)

      Steve: Santer works at Lawrence Livermore in the US, not at CRU. If he didn’t forward my email to Jones, then it wouldn’t be in the CRU email, would it? I haven’t reported on requests for CRU station data and unarchived IPCC review comments yet. After we review them, we can assess the degree to which CRU precipitated multiple requests through non-compliance.

      • ianl8888
        Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:44 PM | Permalink

        ” … theif/hacker …”

        Mis-spelling aside, you know there was no inside leak of FOI2009.ZIP, how ?

        • thefordprefect
          Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:55 PM | Permalink

          snip – OT

        • ianl8888
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:25 AM | Permalink

          Not a reply to the question – you know it was not an inside leak, how ?

      • intrepid_wanders
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

        “double figures” as in 11 or 99? I think another wing at EAU would be in order…

      • thefordprefect
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

        By all means delete my explanation for Hacker, but it would be the decent thing to also delete the other off topic responses!
        :o( or are uyou just trying to hide the fact that it is illegal for data to be accessed that you have no right to? (jones and perhaps IT are the only people with legal access to jones’ emails so is one of these your mole?)


        In these 2 posts you are looking at FOI requests only. However, reading some of the emails with McIntyre as the search shows that not only a few FOI requests were made but also other non FOI requests.

        It is interesting to note that quite often jones is preparing stuff to release. It is also interesting in the early emails (i’m only up to 2006) that it is Mann suggesting no response.

        To those saying it takes no time to respond to a FOI. It is worth reading some of the emails from the search.
        Sometimes data is provided by a number of people/institutions and agreement to release has to be requested from each (write email with references to data – wait for response – wait for person to come backfrom field trip/holiday/conference – re-send emails when no response received – write to co-authors for their agreement – collate data – send data.

        • oneuniverse
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

          The leaker of the CRU emails, if indeed there was a leaker, would most likely be protected by law as he was acting in the public interest.

        • George
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

          He/She would be protected under The UK’s Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 to be exact.

        • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

          To those saying it takes no time to respond to a FOI. It is worth reading some of the emails from the search.
          Sometimes data is provided by a number of people/institutions and agreement to release has to be requested from each

          If I understand correctly that making relevant documents public in reply to FOI requests is required by law, there should be no question of asking third parties to allow releasing data provided by them, no more than there is any question of asking permission from your business clients to include copies of their bills before you send in your yearly tax return, with the option of holding back those bills from the tax authorities which your clients prefer not to show them.

      • Norbert
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:05 AM | Permalink

        thefordperfect, in your link:

        there is this quote from Phil Jones:

        Don’t feel picked on – we in CRU had another FOI request related to tree-ring data yesterday as well. It is in a similar vein. We put up all the individual tree-ring series (widths, densities) – i.e. what we consider the raw data. He already had the chronologies. He now wants to know why some individual series were excluded from the chronologies and why some chronologies were excluded in subsequent analyses. This time they have asked for manuals, computer code and correspondence explaining the exclusions! It seems neverending. If they just did some paleo fieldwork with trees, corals, sediment cores they might understand why some samples are excluded.

        (My emphasis)

        It seems the FOI about tree-ring data is not one of those mentioned by Steve at the top of this blog, perhaps not by Steve at all.

        • Don Wagner
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

          And your point? You also seem to forget that these “scientists” did their work knowing they were subject to FOI and tried to subvert the process. If the FOI rules were too onerous for them, well they can work somewhere else.
          Natures article is no more than whining.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 8:14 PM | Permalink

          My points are two:

          – That here is another FOI which wasn’t mentioned by Steve above (yet). It seems that the email mentioning it might not even be in (It seems in that thread, Steve posted an email he was personally copied on). So it might easily get missed when Steve will finally “count” the requests. It might be that the same person made another FOI request, but certainly there were previous “demands”.

          – It may be very well one of the emails that Nature refers to, as it says: “It seems neverending”, very similar to the “endless, time-consuming demands” which the Nature article refers to.

    • geronimo
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:41 AM | Permalink

      Sreve, is it not possible to get a list of all the FOIA requests sent to the CRU under the FOIA, that should provide proof. Not suggesting you do it I’m just wondering why no one has.

      • Tom FP
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:05 AM | Permalink

        Anyone who has gone to the lengths of filing a FOI request, whether to CRU or anywhere in the world where Hockey Team science has been used for public purposes, now knows that Climategate will breathe fresh life into his case. He will also almost certainly know this site, and he’s likely to be in correspondence with others who have similar stories to tell. What Steve might consider is to create a “My Frustrated FOI” page, where people can post the details of rejected FOI requests, and where the fate/progress of these requests can be followed. But it should also allow postings from people such as the Finnish scientist who simply asked Jones by email for info and was ignored. Just because the Finn didn’t go to the length of an FOI request doesn’t mean Jones shouldn’t have met his request, or that we shouldn’t be interested in the data he was denied.

    • Tom C
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:35 AM | Permalink

      Some want to reverse the burden of proof on this issue. Steve did not make a claim in this matter to begin with. The claims were made by Nature and New Scientist. So, the burden on them is to provide at least plausible numbers that support how they were “onerous”.

      This is similar to the strategy used in a smear campaign. Claim that someone said something racist, for example. When the accused says “I didn’t say that, show me where I said that”, the smearer says “oh yeah, prove that you didn’t say it”.

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:13 AM | Permalink

        This is a common tactic in this whole debate. Person A says X. Person B says: your claim is very weakly supported. Person A says: prove it false. It is upside down logic.

        • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

          Yes, this is the classic

          “Have you stopped beating your wife?”


          Cheers — Pete Tillman

    • AJ
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

      Steve: Why don’t you submit FOI requests for the FOI requests pertaining to climate data? Of course the holders of that information are the FOI offices themselves. That way we could find out how many FOI requests there were. This is necessary to refute the findings published in a major scientific journal.

      • geronimo
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

        I have indeed sent an FOIA request to the UEA Information Officer,asking for the number of FOIA requests sent to the UEA/CRU between January 2005 until November 2009. We should see

  6. Fredrik
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:09 PM | Permalink

    j ferguson,
    even if the amount of FOI request were high, they would only have needed to set the data in order once in order to accommodate all of them.

    Something they should have done when they first made the reports, if you ask me.

    • j ferguson
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

      Right you are Fredrik,
      But given that this was not their reflexive response, they then went into time-consuming convulsions over each request. Accordingly, Nature’s slant on this is the wrong one. Nature should have been advocating openness instead of decrying how much time was wasted being un-responsive.

      And you do assume that all the FOIs were seeking the same thing. We don’t know that do we?

  7. Pedro X
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:13 PM | Permalink

    You are remarkably generous with your description of Trenberth wanting to help. He appears to be trying to work out how to discredit you by releasing some data.

    Was there actually a 1990 paper or is that an example?

  8. Tom FP
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

    Steve I’m one of the millions who started to look seriously at this stuff on 17th Nov. Until then I had been sceptical that (among many of warmists’ claims) anyone could contruct a skilful model of a system as complex and nonlinear as climate. But I’d sorta kinda assumed that the candidate models and data were out there for all to have a poke at, and that such controversy as might rage would be confined to such data-massaging issues as correction for UHI. I never DREAMED (well, you wouldn’t if you relied as until then I did, on the MSM) that the warmists were refusing, in the way with which we are now familiar, to share their work. So it’s with a fresh, and indignant viewpoint that I say – never mind defending the reasonableness of your FOI requests, shouldn’t you be objecting, in the first instance, to the fact that you had to make them at all?

    I believe CERN shares its data, experiments and results in real time – not being a scientist I’m not the best person to comment, but it would be interesting to know if they had EVER received a request for data by means of FOI. Since scientific conventions on data-sharing (or not) will be much discussed in coming weeks, might it not be a worthwhile task to compose a template paragraph summarising the “CERN Protocol” as a riposte to all this “harassment from deniers” twaddle?

  9. Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:32 PM | Permalink

    Halcyon study culminating into an argument :

    Each of these three requests was reasonable and resolved promptly.

    that might hopefully tone down the following discussions.

  10. Tom FP
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    Sorry to post again so soon, but j ferguson writes “how can you be so certain that there weren’t dozens of other FOI’s?”

    In the excellent Finnish TV clip we see a Finnish scientists telling us thathe repeatedly emailed Jones asking for details as to how Russion temperature data had been “treated”, and got no reply. So if you forget about FOIs, which should never have been necessary, you could recast his words:

    “Since we now know their attitude to FOI requests, is it not reasonable to suppose that they may simply have ignored many other perfectly reasonable requests delivered with less legal force?”, and there’s one for a start.

  11. Kev
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 10:54 PM | Permalink

    Tom FP…

    I think the overarching idea is that a group of climate scientists at the pinnacle of their profession are acting like spoiled brats in a treehouse club, aided and abetted by some rather prestigious and influential print pals. The fundamental unseriousness of the behavior of the club and their “clubbiness”, not to mention some of their looser scientific assertions, stamd in stark contrast to the globally important position they have attained. This disconcerts, to put it mildly.

    Given this club’s unassailable connection to highly influential media leaders and prominent international political organizations, the case to question them must be made inexorably, calmly, clinically, and in full public view.

    Thus this blog covers matters glacially, moving over only one tiny bit of new real estate at a time, but at a sufficient depth and weight to markedly and permanently alter the information landscape beneath its mass.

    One assumes, eventually, if this floe of thought has sufficient gravity, there will be a tipping point in the climate of public opinion.


  12. Tom FP
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

    Kev – I may not have made my point – discussing the reasonableness or otherwise of FOI requests smacks to me of tacitly accepting that any scientist doing publicly-funded work should not be expected, AS A MATTER OF COURSE, to simply post his work in a replicable form every time he believes he has made a significant advance. In the culture of properly-conducted, publicly-funded research bearing on “the greatest moral challenge of our time”, the initials FOI simply ought, IMO, to have no place. Discussing the relative merits of individual FOI requests seems to me rather beside the point.

    • Kev
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:04 AM | Permalink

      Tom fp

      I don’t see this as an either-or question.

      However, i do see some benefit to tackling matters in a logical sequence. In this case, in order to sensibly demonstrate the need for change in a system, it would seem worthwhile to first clearly demonstrate the inadequecies of said system.

      • Tom FP
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:36 AM | Permalink

        Kev – I am assuming that an FOI request is only made when a simple request has been rejected. My point is that the original request should have been granted (or rendered unnecessary by online posting, as I understand is the case with CERN). You talk about “changing the system” in a logical way, and I take it you are talking about the conduct of science. If so, the logical starting point is surely that there is nothing wrong with the system, as understood by the generality of scientists, but that this particular group of scientists managed to abuse it. One of the hallmarks of the scientific method down the centuries has been that far from resisting the efforts of peers to “find something wrong with” their work, scientists actively seek such scrutiny. They may, and indeed often do, react waspishly to the criticism that ensues, but that doesn’t mean they repudiate the peer review process. So in a field such as climate science, you would not expect to find any FOIs at all – lots of argument, some of it acrimonious – but no FOIs. At all. Ever. And people offering to supply met data who wished it to remain proprietary (another of the feeble excuses touted for FOI rejections) would be politely refused.

        So the only interest I have in the FOIs is in identifying the outstanding or rejected ones and seeing how they are henceforth dealt with.

        In principle, scientists doing public-interest, publicly-funded work ought to post it online – FOI requests should not have been necessary in the past, and it is to be hoped that the Climategate furor will ensure that recourse to them in future will not be necessary.

  13. Bill Bussell
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

    snip – prohibited word

  14. Nik
    Posted Dec 29, 2009 at 11:46 PM | Permalink

    The dominating question that arises is why the almost monomaniacal drive for secrecy and data retention?

    Admittedly I am not familiar with the details of clmate research, but I read plenty of biological scientific journals and there the process is open: the methodology is laid out in detail, down to the glue used to attach the radio transmitters to the backs of birds, the data gathered, the method of analysis, followed by a discussion. Everything is pretty much laid out in the open.

    So why is climate practice so secretive?

    Those who know perhaps can tell us if the reticence to release data is a custom in climate circles or if it is a quirk of the hockey team alone.

    • jeez
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:39 AM | Permalink


      It’s a circle quirk.

      • Richard Saumarez
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

        Do you mean “the Magic Circle”? (A british society of stage magicians)

      • Terry Johnson
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

        Too funny.

  15. geo
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

    Didn’t Jones refer to “double digits” over a two year period in one of his statements? Of course, given the obvious paranoia displayed in the climategate letters, I have no doubt he sees McIntyre Minions behind every bush (and FOIA request).

    And if my memory is right that “double digits” is what he said, it is likely low teens. If it had been as many as 24 he’d have switched to “dozens” to make sure his tale of woe was maximized even more in the public mind. So if it is low teens, we’re talking about less than 10 per year, and I just cannot take seriously complaint about that kind of volume –particularly as the article above makes clear in many cases the materials are already pre-prepared and thus easily made available with minimum effort.

    Steve: AS I said in a previous comment, let;s do a count when we finish our inventory. We haven’t finished the inventory yet.

  16. EdeF
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:47 AM | Permalink

    “Unfortunately, station histories are not currently available for any of the stations in the 205-station network; therefore, details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times, and official data sources are not known.”

    I think this problem is going to show up even in the data from the more advanced
    countries…..especially changes in the location of the stations that are not
    reflected in the station metadata.

  17. Steven Mosher
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:54 AM | Permalink

    For CRU, if you exclude my requests for CRU data/agreements and the two I have pending, then I got zero on any other matters ( none on the jones 1990 and none on the mitchell/ar4/amman/briffa/obsborn issue.)

    Willis of course has 1 FOIA into cru sept of 2006, WRT jones 1990.

    Might want to check with warwick and John A to see if they put any in.

    • intrepid_wanders
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:15 AM | Permalink

      While it may be OT… somebody has got to cache this…

      Notice the “Standing” folder… not altogether shocking, but, hmmm…

      • intrepid_wanders
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:50 AM | Permalink

        Still OT… All this FOIA research may be moot. NOAA appears to be trying to get their ducks in a row since MAR08.

        Click to access NOAA_ResptoDAARWGRecs_032508.pdf

        With Phil’s assistance on the Scientific Advisory Board, who knows.

        I especially like the document control section at the end (page 4-5).

        Data Access and Archive Working Group

        C’mon man…

  18. chip
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:58 AM | Permalink

    And let’s not lose sight too that people have to file FOI requests for government funded data that underpin decisions which will cost us billions if not trillions of dollars.

    While I appreciate the need for Steve to push back against the misinformation from Nature et al, there is no good reason for this data to be secreted away at all.

    • crosspatch
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:30 AM | Permalink

      “there is no good reason for this data to be secreted away at all.”

      Well, it depends. There are a lot of various agencies that operate on a cost recovery model. They will provide you with raw observation data but they charge for it. This helps them offset the archival cost. These archives grow with every passing day and to be fair, resources must be allocated to house and maintain them. So they aren’t going to look favorably on someone who is simply going to release all of the raw data to the public for free. Having said that, most will make their data available for researchers. The understanding here is that the raw data obtained for free isn’t redistributed.

      What is confounding here is that Mr. McIntyre apparently wanted the list of stations, not the raw data itself. There is no good reason to withhold that information. To say that the raw data is available elsewhere is a perfectly valid response but to withhold exactly WHICH data it is that is available elsewhere is just plain wrong. The proper response, the way I understand science, is to provide enough information for someone else to be able to replicate your work. So Mr. McIntyre should have been given the list of the data used in the research and for it to be up to him to actually obtain that data is fair. Not being given the information as to which data to request is unfair. It is more than unfair.

      It is not the least bit unreasonable for at least the metadata to be cataloged and archived and most areas of science would require such a thing to be done. I can’t imagine someone in astronomy reaching some major conclusion that could impact our understanding of the universe and then refusing to release the data on which the conclusion is based. In other areas of science, such a response would lead to their research being dismissed until it can be replicated by any independent researcher.

      I don’t have a problem that the raw data isn’t freely available. I have a problem that we don’t even know which data was used and can’t ask for or even purchase the data required to replicate the results.

      • Tom FP
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:48 AM | Permalink

        “Well, it depends” – yes, it depends first and foremost on whether you want to use the data to inform public policy (in this case to urge a $45 trillion hair shirt for the world’s economy) – or not. If you do, you must simply decline to use data unless the provider is willing to make it publicly available.

        • crosspatch
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

          Simply stating clearly which data you used would be enough but apparently the climate “scientists” don’t even want to do that so it pretty much invalidates their conclusions until they do. In other words, a good pointer to the raw data is as good as the raw data itself but they don’t seem to be able to produce even that.

      • mamapajamas
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

        CP… “I don’t have a problem that the raw data isn’t freely available. I have a problem that we don’t even know which data was used and can’t ask for or even purchase the data required to replicate the results.”

        I have a huge, hairy problem that the raw data isn’t freely available when “scientists” are trying to use that data to affect massive social and political and economic changes on the entire world, then won’t tell us what’s in the data, where they got it, or how it was modified.

        This data should be freely available on a public server, in raw state. There should be a specific filename format, and references to those filenames in whatever work uses the data, how it was modified, which files, etc, at the very least.

        In other words, there should be no need for anyone to use the FOIA process to find out what was used when and how. It should be where anyone can see it.

        I’ve been working on FOIA computers for as long as there’s been a FOIA. There isn’t supposed to be such a thing as “privacy” on them. We are routinely warned not to use our PCs for personal communications because our e-mails might end up in a FOIA data dump. These “scientists” have no call claiming that their “private” communications were exposed, nor causing anything on the system to vanish. Goose. Gander.

        Scientists choked by too many FOIA requests? Work interrupted by it? Too bad. Don’t accept public funding. Or keep the data public in the first place.

        Either way works.

        • Chris BC
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:09 AM | Permalink

          I’ve got to pile on and concur. The public funding aspect undermines any argument, including Nature’s, that FOIA requests constitute harassment.

          It also undermines the “cost recovery model” point. The work is already paid for by the public so it can’t be kept private unless there is a valid exemption, and there is none.

      • Terry Johnson
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

        While I don’t know anything about climate science, I do know a great deal about crunching data. I know for a fact that if you give me enough data points that I can, with selective processing, prove virtually any point. As they say, “Liars figure.”

        I have direct personal experience developing computer models. I have directed the development of two software models approved by the Navy for use of use. In each case, the model included a software representation of the physical world. The process in creating the models required strict adherence to systems engineering principles and the development of systems engineering artifacts which provide the framework within which the models will operate. Examples of those artifacts include: Systems Engineering Plan (SEP), Program Management Plan (PMP), Risk Management Plan (RMP) and Configuration Management Plan (CMP).

        Critical in the model development is the Verification, Validation and Accredidation (VV&A) process which concludes with the determination of the model is a suitable representation AND, itemizes those areas or weaknesses in the model which any decision maker should be made aware. It is not a blanket approval, or disapproval. This is a critical difference between the models which I have developed and those which have been developed by the climate scientists – there is no disclosure of the weakness of their models.

        My processes seem to differ significantly from those used by the the “warmists”. It appears that they used a series of peer reviews to accredit the models and reports related to global warming. Absent from the peer review process is any one individual or institution whose job it is to be skeptical. In fact, it appears that the peer reviews of the Center’s key climatic documents were accomplished with those who agreed with the authors. Far from being skeptics, the peer reviewers were closely aligned with the authors.

        Another big difference: I have a government agency with which I work, whose duty is to be the professional skeptic and to challenge my systems engineering process as well as my data. Their presence ensures that I am not bending the data one way or the other as I seek a software solution within cost, schedule and performance. They keep me honest. The climate scientist have no analog for this watchdog.

        My entire software development process is an open book to those who review my software development program. The professional skeptics, in fact, can hire a second set of systems engineers to audit my processes to ensure to their satisfaction that my systems engineering process is valid and my results are reliable.

        The climate data has, until recently liberated, been a well-kept secret. While the emails and certain documents seem to provides some understanding of their internal process, it does not provide the raw data and meta data which are essential for independent review and authentication.

        All in all: climate science does not stand up to even the most basic systems engineering standards.

  19. HankHenry
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:54 AM | Permalink

    Did the Nature editorial “condemn” FOI requests? It certainly says it harasses scientists and takes up their time – which I am sure is true, but I don’t think the editorial goes quite as far as a condemnation. In fact, a concluding sentence in the editorial says, “Yet it is precisely in such [harassed] circumstances that researchers should strive to act and communicate professionally, and make their data and methods available to others,…”

    I also note the editorial makes a prescription for “tangible assistance for researchers.” If that means more FOI personnel, it seems like a pretty sensible suggestion.

  20. TanGeng
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:01 AM | Permalink

    I can’t really say if I’m speculating or not so tell me if I’m overreaching. It seems like these editorials are moaning and complaining about scientists having to defend their scientific papers. It’s not FOIA requests but the process that these scientists have to go through in order to have their scientific thesis stand up to scrutiny. It’s based on the idea that independent scrutiny of science is a total waste of time.

    The logical continuation is that Nature magazine through its peer review process is the final arbiter of truth. Its print cannot be questioned. Seems like their reputation is also embroiled in this Climategate mess and thus they are defending these “scientists” to the death.

  21. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:04 AM | Permalink

    There is an interesting legal angle to this situation that probably makes the point of the post rather moot. In each case documented above the information requested is environmental information under the terms of the UK’s Environmental Information Regulations. Under these regulations, the body concerned is required to publish environmental information as a matter of course.

    The requests, whether burdensome or otherwise (and clearly it’s a case of “otherwise”), were only necessary because CRU had breached its legal obligations. Nature should be directing its fire at breaches of the law by public bodies rather than at members of the public who seek to correct those failings.

    • Tom FP
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:10 AM | Permalink

      As usual, Bishop, you go to the heart of the matter. Discussing the merits of thwarted FOI requests is a bit like discussing whether a rape victim was good in bed – it sort of misses the point…

    • Dave
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

      I have to admit, I’m still struggling to see exactly how multiple FOI requests can be particularly burdensome. If they’re for the same thing, then the sum total of the response to subsequent requests is to copy the response to previous requests. Alternatively, they’re substantially different requests – and how many substantially different requests that are non-trivial to answer and are actually covered by FOI can possibly exist?

    • Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

      It seems there’s something rotten in the state of Nature magazine, and has been for some time, perhaps going back to their publication of the original Hockey Stick. This is a notch higher than just one phony editorial that is so obviously unscientific in its total presentation.

      One thing that gives me hope is the clarity and tenacity coming through from subscribers posting replies. Well, it gave me hope when I looked last time; now I cannot access them. I also note that New Scientist comments are getting deleted in suspiciously high quantity – but not all.

  22. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:20 AM | Permalink

    Many FoI requests in the UK are made through WhatDoTheyKnow. This lists 29 requests, but only 10 predating Climategate, a number which doesn’t suggest a heavy burden of requests.

    • Tom FP
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:35 AM | Permalink

      In principle, however, publicly-funded, public-interest science ought surely to be freely shared, whether or not the legal means exists to compel it? So the existence of ANY FOI requests, rejected or not, ought to raise concerns about the openness of the field in which they are made.

      I cited CERN earlier, which I believe posts its experiments for public scrutiny as a matter of course. It would be interesting to know if they have ever had an FOI request.

    • thefordprefect
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

      You say many, I would say few! Now prove who is wrong!!!

      10 FOIs I would suggest is perhaps at best 10% (a pure guess just like yours) so they had received perhaps 100 FOIs. This is not a small number!

      • stephen richards
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

        Sorry did I misread something here. The Bish said I have data that shows 10 FOI and you say (with out data) that that must be 10% of the actual number when the bish says the actual recorded number is 10.

        One of us is from Zod and it ain’t me.

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:10 PM | Permalink


        Wasnt it you who argued that it was plausible that the confidentiality agreements covered “non academics” a position invented by Jones to justify his release to Webster while precluding the release to McIntyre? a position later renounced by the FOIA appeal officer to be mistaken?

        The Bulk of the FOIA, I would hazard, come from the efforts of those of us who requested the agreements. If Jones had merely stated the truth at the outset,” I’ve mislaid the agreements ( except for 3 or 4) and can’t recall the terms, then he would have spared his organization the work and embarassment.” SPECIFICALLY, he did not tell the truth when he said that the agreements precluded release to non academics. When Palmer relied on this excuse and did nothing to check it, Palmer and Jones Insured that people like Pielke, Ross, and Hu ( all academics ) would FOIA them. Their lie bought them more trouble.

        Do you and others see this FINALLY. Jones made up a story about the confidentiality agreements PRECLUDING RELEASE to non academics. Farcical on its face as many of us with experience with confidentiality agreements pointed out. That prevarication INSURED that somebody who WAS an academic would test the reason for denial. They did. They were denied. And the story continued until mid nov, 2009 when somebody inside the organization, learning of the final decision to reject McIntyre’s FOIA appeal, decided to take matters into their own hands and create the climategate files

        • curious
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

          Steven – you can’t be serious?: “when somebody inside the organization” – I thought the theft was down to malicious and/or politically and/or financially motivated hacking?

        • ianl8888
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

          And you know this, how ?

        • Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 2:08 PM | Permalink

          Wikipedia and all the rest are insisting it’s theft and instilling it into people’s consciousness by repetition. But we have no sign of evidence for theft. None. Only police language used to cover all eventualities. Go read the comments at WP.

        • WillR
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Permalink

          The Confidentiality agreements are pretty trivial. It’s hard to say what they mean.

          I commented on this in the newest thread — it’s too long to repeat here.

      • Neil Hyde
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

        Don’t forget the innumerable petitions on the No.10 website PRIOR to “Climategate” which were also asking for CRU data release, most of which were fobbed off with “The PM has full confidence in the Met Office”

        Twaddle Ford

    • Bob MacLean
      Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

      Bishop Hill 3:20am –
      If you search on the WhatDoTheyKnow website for “Climatic Research Unit” it comes up with 110 matches. Many of these will not, of course, have been directed specifically to the Climatic Research Unit unit, but will have made reference to it. I noticed one from Anthony Watts.

  23. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:35 AM | Permalink

    Read (for the first time) the post on Durbin-Watson. Irrespective of peer review and freedom of information, what they did is incorrect. (In maths and stats, right and wrong is simple).

    Steve: Yep. But in climate science, if you say that the Team did a calculation incorrectly, it’s a challenge to papal infallibility.

  24. John
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:53 AM | Permalink

    Seems to me the Nature editorial is ducking the point, as some of the other responders above have already noted: data kept by a public agency, or any SCIENTIFIC institution, public or private, should be FREELY and EASILY available to ANY AND ALL interested users (researchers, teachers, students, media, citizens). CRU and its apologists can only claim that sharing data is a burden because they have made it burdensome forcing people to file FOI requests to get it in the first place! Why, in the Internet age, can they not post the data where anyone who wants a copy of it can freely examine and download it without having to trouble someone for it–as for instance, the US Geological Survey does? The editors of Nature should be admonishing CRU, not defending them. This is a sorry time for science–the corruption runs all the way through the very instutitions that should be keeping it honest.

  25. stacey
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:06 AM | Permalink

    natures argument is false. Is it a straw man argument special pleading or both?

    1 The release of the information is time consuming.
    2 Which causes the scientists to be harrased.
    3 This results in the scientists saying and doing things they would not normally do.
    Item 1 is patently false therefore the argument fails.

  26. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:50 AM | Permalink

    FOIA is a law that has to be complied with and so it does not matter what the number of requests actually is.
    If someone does not wish to comply with a law, the correct avenue is to have it repealed or amended. Anything else is anarchy. My question is why is it necessary to even respond to this FOIA-is-only-a-hassle claim made off the hip from Nature. To me it simply has no merit.

  27. son of mulder
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    So prior to Climategate, in total how many FOI’s did CRU actually provide the requested data for and how many were refused. This would be a suitable FOI request given the circumstances. Similar for NOAA. They should only bother the Information Officer who should know the answer anyway to justify staffing.

  28. P Gosselin
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:24 AM | Permalink

    The scientist decides him(her)self whether or not it’s time-consuming. One scientist yesterday suggested simply posting the data in the internet. I wonder why that idea has escaped certain climate scientists. I’m trying very hard to see Nature’s point, but it eludes me.

  29. j ferguson
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

    Since there is a lot inferring going on here, might I infer that there was a burden to responding to the FOIs because the information had not been shared with anyone. In other words, no-one they approved of had asked to see the data and methods.

    No, “Hey Phil, show me how you did that?”

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

      In some cases, the data Steve requested had already been shared with other “acceptable” scientists. In the Durbin-Watson case he merely was looking for citations for Jones’ methods. In the China case, he simply wanted a list of stations. In the next post on CRU FOI, the data was maybe not compiled in a coherent way.

  30. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    The question was raised: why are the Team (and friends) so secretive? Answer 1) the data and code are what CRU get funded for. If they gave it away, why would they need big grants to keep running their operation? Answer 2) Mann et al keep using the same data over and over. Anyone could play that game, and probably better then they do, so the best defence is to never let the data out. Answer 3) I think they are a little insecure about their statistical skill, as they should be. Revealing too much pulls back the curtain and opens them to ridicule, as has already happened. Nothing like multiple incentives to motivate wagon-circling behavior.

    • j ferguson
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:31 AM | Permalink

      I think the thing I was chewing on was why would they whine about the effort unless they’d never put a “package” together for anyone, not even one of their “like-minded” colleagues?
      If they had shared the data with someone, then the whining seems the height of disingenuousness.

      • Craig Loehle
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

        Ah, I see. In fact, they have shared the data with others in most cases. Sometimes really big datasets. The real reason for the whining is they don’t want to share with critics. Only Team members.

        • Tony Hansen
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

          How do I a priori determine that you are going to be critical of my work?
          Unless of course if I knew that my work was not especially robust.

  31. WillR
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

    I promised myself not to comment again today…. However…

    Again — I will note that I found less than five references to actual FOIA requests so far….

    Also, I will note again that the effort expended in not complying with FOIA (Not to mention reasonable requests from other researchers say the Finns) seems to have expended far more energy than compliance. SO I believe that this disproves the editorial comments.

    Please refer to this email group

    Note that there is a suggestion that Sarah could release every tenth line…

    “My concern was if Sarah is/was still employed by UEA. I guess she could claim that she had only written one tenth of the code and release every tenth line.”

    You can go to and learn…
    “5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.”

    You can check the “legal” definition yourself and find. (line 4)

    4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.

    Since the FOIA is law — then that definition applies as well!

    From New Scientist

    “This anger is understandable. Over the past two decades, the CRU has compiled the most authoritative record of recent temperatures on the planet. It is how we know the world is warming. Yet its researchers have been inundated over the past few years with what feel like unreasonable and malicious demands for their raw data. They fear the hacking of their emails is the culmination of a concerted attack by data terrorists.”

    They also refer to personal emails. I think the conspiracy shoe is on the other foot.

    There are sometimes personal references re absences — but my reading of the emails — over 85% now — is that they are work related. Therefore the email in total would be fair game for release under FOIA rules.

    There is lots of other evidence for conspiracy (time consuming too!) that wastes their time. I would judge the FOIA request to be far less onerous than their bickering and griping. Just my $0.02.

    Reading the CRU email file is truly tiresome! A lot of vitriol and complaining — mostly misplaced.


    • thefordprefect
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:43 AM | Permalink

      For goodness sake your quote is a bit of light hearted banter in a “private” email!

      • WillR
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:45 AM | Permalink

        When you are at the receiving end of a request to engage in unlawful acts you have a duty to report such request to the legal authorities. At that point privacy ends.

        But at least you have no recognized that they emails are not “personal”.

      • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

        Ford, I think you’ll find that light-hearted remarks urging the commission of a crime are still criminal, especially if the crime actually occurred.

        • ErnieK
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:30 PM | Permalink

          “My concern was if Sarah is/was still employed by UEA. I guess she could claim that she had only written one tenth of the code and release every tenth line.”

          The correct response should have been: “Of course she should comply with the FOI. After all we are honest scientists and we have nothing to hide.”

          Maybe this was an attempt at humor, but it goes right to the culture of not releasing anything, and if forced to release, only release as little as possible.

          Attempts at humor often reveal more about the teller than they intend.

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:59 PM | Permalink

        How do you see this as.

        1. banter
        2. private email.

        It’s neither. read all the mails in context and understand that there is no such thing as private email from a corporate or government computer

        • thefordprefect
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

          Why do you think that the UEA is a coporate/government institution.

          It is basically a university – a place of learning.
          The CRU is also a research centre but is still a place of learning.

          The UEA as a whole will now be funded by a sizeable proportion of coporate sponsers (it was funded in my day, from government funds and only a small amount from companies. And, before you ask I do not have figures to back this up)

          Are you suggesting that because of this all student email could be subject to a FOI request. Now that would be fun!

        • John M
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

          The Freedom of Information Act applies to all ‘public authorities’ – this includes

          central and local government
          the health service
          schools, colleges and universities
          the police
          lots of other non-departmental public bodies, committees and advisory bodies.

          According to Wikipedia, UEA is a “public research university”.

  32. Anand Rajan KD
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    Craig Loehle
    I agree with point #2. Have personally seen that operate under different circumstances.

    Check this out.
    A database of molecular biology information on brain tumors from patients who consented for this information to be available publicly. As opposed to climate scientists guarding temperature data as if it belonged to them. “I’ll be hiding behind these” – Jones.

    The CRU has provided another excuse as well, regarding ‘old’ raw data from the 80’s – “We threw it away because who could expect it would become so important in 30 years?”‘

  33. Peter Dunford
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    In neither article is there a shred of recognition that if journals generally enforced public data-archiving, none of the “harassment” would have been necessary.

    Nor is there an inkling that if they carried out peer-review more diligently, we would probably never have got to this situation in the first place.

    How different would the last ten years have been if MBH98 had got found out in peer-review? Why were so many papers waved through that contained proxy reconstructions distorted by a just a handful of trees?

    The Team would not have been able to behave the way they did, get away with what they have, and garner the influence they have, had the peer-reviewed litchurchur done it’s job. The articles imply they have learned nothing, and the comments on New Scientist’s page show their subscribers are almost completely against their stance.

  34. Falafulu Fisi
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

    SteveM, it looks like that your moderation is similar to what guys at RealClimate are doing. I made a comment (opinion) about the magazine “Nature” from the other thread and it was completely cut (except the 2 words you mentioned about the comment – snip, editorial). If I thought that the comment was defaminig, “Nature” , then I can understand why you did it, but it was nothing of the sort.

  35. Slabadang
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:43 AM | Permalink


    I think you all have to realize what the issue is.FOIA laws is absolutely no news.They are arguing in a way that underline the real scandal in this case.
    You have legislations and law overriding any organisations problems to apply to them.
    As a Company you have to show the bookeeping down to the slightest invoice and pennie and you have to follow all the rules how to organize and structure your accounts for auditing and control.
    Its no difference whith the FOIA laws.Its especially serious when the institution is founded by taxes and is advicer to the political leaders of the world and the UN are the ones who dont apply.
    There is absolutely no acceptable argument to reffer to
    “burden on the scientist” the scandal is how bad they plan and organize their institutions work and how embarrasing obvious they disclose this as a defence when they aught to realize thier embarrasing them selves.Thats how naiv they are.It more confirm them as scientist that see them selves above the laws and legislations.
    Dokumentation and proffessional administration of the scientific work shouldnt be a task for the scientists whats so ever.Its simply a “backoffice” matter.
    So they reveal a hole serie of organisational incompetence.Its really uppsetting and I can read from many other comments that lack of structure and organisation within the science is more to be a norm and expected.
    Whith small poor intitutions I might have a slight sympthy but with work ordered by IPCC and big resarch centras ABSOLUTELY NOT.

  36. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    Nature claims that the scientists are being unfairly burdened,and the issue is so serious that they take editorial space about it, and the ClimateGate emails show that the Team are very upset about requests for info. On one side we have a couple of blogs, a dozen outspoken scientists and on the other side all the big journals, all the media, the IPCC, and governments. I heard that the failure of Copenhagen was blamed on Inhofe, who flew in for a few hours and gave a press conference. This brings to mind an elephant up on a chair crying about the mouse in the room. A very small mouse and a very large elephant.

  37. williamcurry
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

    Steve: “….And one more time, I’m trying to show that these FOI requests were appropriate and that NAture should not have condemned the FOI requests.”

    It’s interesting to contrast Nature’s obfuscating editorial on data-withholding by climate scientists with the clear, apolitical position taken in the November editorial of its sister publication, Nature Cell Biology (from the abstract):

    Nature Cell Biology joins call for microattribution of datasets

    Nature Cell Biology (11,1273; 2009) joins in the call for ‘microattribution’ in its November Editorial, stating that reference datasets should be accessible independently of scientific papers in a citable form. The problem, from a cell biological perspective:

    “Scholarly publication remains essential for describing and contextualizing findings, but it is inadequate as the only document of research activity. Most journals require a significant conceptual advance, and format constraints typically allow only for the presentation of representative qualitative, or statistically processed quantitative data. Consequently, the majority of raw data never emerges from lab hard drives, and a wealth of information, hard work and funding is wasted. High throughput platforms generate reams of data that cannot be captured in traditional papers. Moreover, methods sections fail to adequately describe metadata essential for the comparison and reproduction of experiments. Databases are essential for comprehensively archiving both published and unpublished data, but have only become fully integrated into the scientific process in a few cases, such as DNA sequencing and microarray data. For many types of data, including light microscopy, no databases exist at all.”

    Prepublication deposition into databases is relatively new to biology, but is essential, according to the Editorial, whether or not some embargo condition is imposed by authors, funders or publishers. Journals, in their turn, need to systematically link online to data and other material in databases, in order to remain relevant. The Editorial concludes that “Large reference datasets that benefit the wider community and that cannot be analysed efficiently by the data producers should enter the public domain without delay, as long as appropriate attribution and credit can and is given. Scientific culture has to change so that data is valued alongside publications. [emphasis supplied]

    • Chris BC
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:43 AM | Permalink

      Excellent! Straight to the heart of the matter and nearly 180 degrees opposed to the warmists’ positions on data availability. IMO it totally destroys Nature’s argument.

      Steve: Ive asked readers not to use the term “warmist”

  38. b_C
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

    Possibly having missed the notion in the comments or the nested replies, would it not make sense to submit an “FOI request on the number of individual FOI requests filed with CRU” on a particular subject, including an assessment of how these FOI requests compare, in numbers, with other, similar requests to the organization?
    In other words, place the onus on CRU to formally respond to what may determine reasonable “demand?”

  39. mooky
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    “Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…”

    More money?! I’m trying to follow the logic in this.

    1) scientist gets government money to do research and as a precondition to receiving those monies must comply with FOI requests,
    2) scientist does research
    3) scientist publishes (and peers review)
    4) FOI request comes in
    5) More money is needed from government and institutions to simply put this data together and send it? Wasn’t that already done in step 3?

    Perhaps by “tangible” assistance they mean a postage stamp? Or, the cost of sending a single email to point the requester to where the data, notes, steps, etc. is located.

    Here’s an idea. Since the journals are profiting from science papers funded by governments and institutions and published in their rags, the journals should bear the burden (costs) of responding to these requests when they are specific to papers they publish.

    • investinlead
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

      Personally, I took the phrase “tangible assistance” as implying the need for legal protections from those burdensome FOI requests.
      It is troubling that rather than enforcing current laws, some might seek to restrict FOI to prevent this type of climategate “problem” from happening again.

  40. UpNorthOutWest
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    (I’m a non-scientist whose work requires me to file more than a few requests under FOIA and similar state statutes.)

    Even if they were right — and Steve is very effectively showing that they were not — Nature missed the point with its editorial, anyway.

    It doesn’t really matter if FOIA requests are “endless” and “time-consuming.” If you’re a public body, the law defines what your public records are, and people’s rights to them.

    How time-consuming the requests are, under the law, only impacts when you’re required to provide the requested records. How many such requests you receive (in other words, whether they are “endless”) doesn’t really matter.

    You can bet that agencies like the Pentagon and CIA get more FOIA requests than, say, NOAA. Those agencies, therefore, have to devote more staff to dealing with such requests. Because complying with FOIA is something they simply have to do.

    This portion of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act seems particularly relevant:

    “(ii) For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “exceptional circumstances” does not include a delay that results from a predictable agency workload of requests under this section, unless the agency demonstrates reasonable progress in reducing its backlog of pending requests. ”

    Indeed, a good argument can be made by requesters of climate change data under FOIA of a compelling need for expediting the public agency’s response to their requests.

    The law requires a public body to speed up the response process when, “with respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, (there is) urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.”

    I’d say the U.S. government preparing to transform our way of life and spend trillions of dollars on something that may not be backed up by the science would fit that provision well.

  41. UpNorthOutWest
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    One last point: Nature’s editorial said, “Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden…”

    If the researchers can indeed make an argument that they’re being inundated with FOI requests, perhaps it would be appropriate to request funding for staff to deal with the requests.

    But A. They need to demonstrate that need, and it appears from what Steve’s showing us that they couldn’t; and B. The purpose of the additional staff would be to give every requester the records to which they are legally entitled — to help researchers get relevant data and other records out the door to people who’ve asked for it.

    Forgive my skepticism that the researchers would be happy to share their records if they just had more staff to help them with the flood of requests, as I recall the following statements:

    “Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

    “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?

    Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

    Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.

    We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.”

  42. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

    I think I said this before, but I think it is a really big lesson from this situation. The data that results from publicly funded research belongs to, and must be made available to, the public. In this day and age, all that needs to do is for it to be archived on a public web server. It is undeniable that some data is hard to acquire and hard to analyze; and, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that a randomly selected member of the public can use the data as well as an appropriately trained professional — but that doesn’t invalidate the point that the public’s data should be provided to the public.

  43. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

    Mosher, there’s an irony to their reliance on confidential agreements (quite aside from the untrue excuses.)

    In most circumstances, language that precludes sending the data to Pielke, McKitrick or McCulloch will preclude sending the data to Mann and Rutherford. Sending data restricted under confidentiality to “friends” might prove even more problematic than obstructing an FOI request.

    • Steven Mosher
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

      It might be time to get a UK volunteer to take it to the next step which would be to push contempt of court ( that’s what they would be charged with ) for obstructing

      • WillR
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

        Steven Mosher and Steve:

        Interesting thought. However, since there is no court case (that I am aware of…) words like obstruction and contempt of court are a bit early in the process.

        If a citizen takes action in the courts — it would be under the Tort system — you would have to show harm to yourself or your company etc. If you file an information (in Canada) that a criminal act has occurred it will be reviewed by a legal official who will decide if charges are
        to be preferred and if so what — you are then reduced to a witness. The UK is of course similar as we share the common law and the methods of proceeding in these cases.

        Hypothetically of course… Let’s assume that there is evidence of conspiracy, and of non-compliance with the FOIA act — that would be one thing. If you feel that someone could make a case that they knowingly withheld information that caused governments to take action that resulted in greatly increased grants that benefited themselves in money and prestige — that would be interesting indeed. Hypothetically speaking (of course) — let’s assume a case could be built. 🙂

        This would be a lot easier in the USA — for various reasons.

        It’s difficult to cover this in only a few sentences but hopefully you have the gist of it.

        But this is a bit off the mark and should not be pursued unless Mr McIntyre desires so…

  44. EdeF
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

    Steve, we know from the ClimateGate emails that they consider you their no. 1 irritant—
    there is no unknown Bolivian or Papua New Guinian guy that was asking for specific climate
    data. This is whinging and whining on their part, they have yet to show or document this
    supposed giant mass of FOIA requests. I am starting to think that they have been stonewalling
    because they don’t want anyone to see their poor craftsmanship. We are getting a show
    on the diy channel here in the states out of Toronto…..a builder is going into homes
    that have had bothched electrical, plumbing and heating jobs. It is unbelievable what he
    finds and then has to do right. You could be his twin since you are doing similar things.
    I think as we open up the basement of climate science and look at the wiring we are going
    to be quite surprised.

  45. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    One point I haven’t seen mentioned is the balance of the work involved in preparing data and writing a paper. Preparing the data, doing the field work, checking its quality etc is time consuming and boring. Analysing the data and writing the paper is much more interesting.

    I can therefore quite understand why researchers are reluctant to pass on their data to all and sundry.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

      Yes, reluctant…to a point. But without sharing your data and codes, it is impossible for others to verify your work. If they do their own analysis and get a different result, you can always claim they did it wrong, which is exactly what Mann keeps saying about Steve’s attempts to emulate his hockey stick calculations or RCS calcs. A good compromise is that the data is protected for a reasonable time for you to get your papers written.
      This goes double for INSTITUTIONS such as CRU & Hadley & GISS which are keepers of policy-relevant datasets. These are not the data collected by one guy on a shoestring budget, but global efforts. To say “it is mine” and keep it hidden is not science.

  46. johnh
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

    In the UK newspapers or media I have never heard of a Govt Agency other than the CRU complaining about getting too many FOIA requests, I am sure none of them like the requests especially the MPs and their expense claims (their excuse was security eg home addesses being released). Seems just another excuse, and as I pay for them I object to their attitude and expect them to release the info my money paid for.

    If they had performed the data collection and analysis correctly it would be no trouble to release quickly and without much expense.

    Note that the MP’s expense data was leaked by the contractors brought to prepare the FOIA release eg the guys given the job of deleting all the addesses from receipts, an insider job.

  47. 3'Ms
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:18 PM | Permalink


    I fail to see the logic of your contribution but I am not a scientist (though have worked many years in a scientific environment), so please forgive me if I misunderstand. Surely having completed the “donkey work” and produced an excellent paper one would be delighted to share one’s results and analyses. Unless, of course, one felt that there were, perchance, elements of one’s analyses with which one was uncomfortable.

  48. Alan Kennedy
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    There is a UK website “whatdothey” that lists FOI requests and the outcome of the request. I am uncertain whether the list is exhaustive – it appears to be. A search to “University” “East Anglia” shows a total of 30. Not all relate to CRU.

  49. deadwood
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    All the fancy footwork by CRU and others regarding the dissemination of basic climate data and code was and continues to be nothing more than eye poking at the unbelievers.

    For the last 10+ years they have gotten away with it because they were able to keep their antics out of the MSM. Only a small number of people (relatively small anyway) knew what was going on thanks to the reporting of people like Steve on blogs.

    Recent articles such as those by AP, The Economist, and Nature are trying “real” hard to put the genie back in the bottle. I don’t know if they will be successful, but I don’t see a whole lot of MSM outlets covering the real story.

  50. IainG
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    We know exactly how much time was consumed by the FOIA requests, it tells us in the emails…..


    “When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise showing them what CA was all about.”

    So it would appear that the “…..time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts…..” actually cost Dr Jones an hour in the company of an FOI person.

    And from the same source “…One issue is that these requests aren’t that widely known within the School. So I don’t know who else at UEA may be getting them. CRU is moving up the ladder of requests at UEA though – we’re way behind computing though……” so it would appear that other departments at UEA can handle the workload. Why not CRU?

    Just my 2p

    • henry
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

      So they talked the FOI guy into refusing the requests because of what they pointed out on CA?

      Show me somewhere in the laws that one reason for refusing an FOI is because of what the requester wants to do with the data!

  51. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    HELP– looking for a quote from a recent WSJ editorial

    I’m looking for the WSJ editorial from (IB) early December that talks about the commonsense question we’re discussing (inter alia) here:

    If Phil Jones & Co. were so confident of their diagnosis of near-catastrophic AGW, why were they resisting release of their data so strenuously? Did they have something to hide?

    I saved a paper copy of this, and then mislaid it. Doh.

    Thanks in advance, and thanks, Steve, for forbearance of this RQ.

    Peter D. Tillman
    Consulting Geologist, Arizona and New Mexico (USA)

  52. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I understand your point that your requests were not onerous, but I don’t think you should let them frame the argument that way in the first place. By taking up their vocabulary and arguing terms, you are conceding that at some point (defined by whom?), FOI requests could become unreasonable. As I see it, compliance with both FOIA and reasonable scientific procedures is just the price of admission when you play the game. I work for the world’s largest pharmaceutical company and sometimes think the lawyers and regulatory workers who populate the company must outnumber those of us who actually produce something ten-to-one…but that is what we have to do to play in that arena. Complaining about compliance requirements is a waste of time and probably wouldn’t generate much sympathy from the public who trusts us to produce safe and effective medication and the politicians and bureaucracies who monitor our efforts.

    Nature’s editorial stance should be, “Put on your big boy pants and get on with it.”

  53. Richard Henry Lee
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

    The Obama administration published guidance to federal agencies about “a new era of open government” available here:

    The first paragraph states:
    ‘On his first full day in office, January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of all departments and agencies on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The President directed that FOIA “should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.” Moreover, the President instructed agencies that information should not be withheld merely because “public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”‘

    And there is a link to another document from the Office of Management and Budget which provides direction to heads of federal agencies:

    Click to access a130trans4.pdf

    which states on page 6:
    k. The open and efficient exchange of scientific and technical government information, subject to applicable national security controls and the proprietary rights of others, fosters excellence in scientific research and effective use of Federal research and development funds.

    And there is another relevant document at:

    where it states that the federal department with the fewest number of FOIA requests during FY 08 was the Department of Energy (which employs Ben Santer) with 1605 requests.

  54. Jan
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:30 PM | Permalink

    Peter, is this it?

  55. Gunnar Strandell
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    In Sweden we have had an FOI act since 1766, and people then died striving for it.

    It was then and still is closely connected to the freedom of speach and print. The cost of rewriting copies by hand or open the archives has never been qustioned.

    It is truly sad if an acknowledged science magazine as Nature is willing to give this freedom away in 2009.

    Editors should ask themselves who will dictade which sources to use and what to write next time, before it is to late.

  56. Jan
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    I don’t much like doing my taxes. I really hate having to keep track of income and related sales taxes, expenses, gas mileage, cost of goods sold, wages, payroll deductions etc. I really detest it when the government comes-a-calling looking for more than just my say-so, yet I’m obligated to comply or face penalty.

    I am, at least in my eyes and those of my friends and family, an honest business person of considerable integrity. Shouldn’t they just take my word for it? Shouldn’t what I’m willing to provide be satisfactory?
    Afterall, no government pays for my time. I don’t receive any public grants for my efforts and the decisions I make and conclusions I reach are certainly not earth shattering.

    While only a business person and not a scientist, I therefore cannot comprehend how Nature and the Team have a leg to stand on in rejecting FOI’s as too onerous and intrusive. If part of what one does requires one to be able to satisfactorily justify what has been reported, it seems to me, that reporting capability just comes with the territory and thus should be part of the planning process in relation to work product output.

    • Nick Stokes
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

      There’s only a fixed and small number of tax inquisitors. What if just anyone could write and demand your gas mileage etc? And you have to answer or face penalty?

      Steve: What a stupid comment, Nick. If authors don’t want to publish data, then (1) they shouldn’t accept grants that require them to archive data; (2) publish articles in journals that require them to provide data.

      • Phil
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:32 PM | Permalink

        If you are driving a car owned by the government (i.e. the taxpayers) or your mileage or expenses are being paid by the taxpayers (through govt. grants, employment in govt. agencies, etc.), then you would be required to provide the information. The whole point is that these people are doing this with public funding or being employed by publicly funded organizations. There are precious few people publishing scientific papers who are not publicly funded in some way or other (such as Steve McIntyre, for example) and he posts all of his data and code.

        Public advocacy also merits disclosure (i.e. candidates for public office). In the case of those climate scientists or publications (including but not limited to Nature) who have become political advocates for affecting the way of life of just about everyone on Earth, similar disclosure is also merited.

      • Nick Stokes
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

        Well, Steve, FOI is not linked to grant or journal policies. I didn’t introduce the tax analogy – just noted the difference in dealing with one organisation vs an unlimited number.

        This list has been cited a few times. It’s incomplete, but definitely a HS. I’m not a big prophet of CAGW, but I think catastrophic FOI is very close.

        You might like to think about the implications of unstructured auditing. Bad auditors will always crowd out good ones. If CRU simply can’t respond to all the FOI requests, then they will answer just the easy ones.

        I note that over the last year, requests for actual data have been overwhelmed by requests for info on confidentiality agreements etc – info that isn’t really wanted, but used for tactical reasons. That’s the growth area, and makes seeking data that much harder.

      • Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 8:05 PM | Permalink

        There’s only a fixed and small number of tax inquisitors. What if just anyone could write and demand your gas mileage etc? And you have to answer or face penalty?

        This discussion seems to be going far afield but any business will face any number of inquisitors in its normal course.

        In the normal course of business, there will inevitably be disputes with other businesses. Businesses protect themselves in this by having recourse to legal counsel and keeping adequate records. The issue of discovery is critical in these disputes and any business that cannot (or will not) produce relevant records will be faced with an angry judge and learn the legal principle of “adverse inference”. The judge will instruct the jury that the failure to produce the necessary records leads to the inference that the other side’s position is correct. If this were not the case, it would be in a business’ best interest to not maintain adequate records.

        Universities and research institutes have legal offices, FOI offices, extensive computing facilities and clerical support staff. If they have problems because they did not keep adequate records to meet a legal requirement then they are the ones at fault. They have more than enough resource to meet any reasonable demand. So as the judge would say in the case of failure to provide information in the case of discovery, “Cry me a river.”

        • Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 8:25 PM | Permalink

          I should have Laos added the example of General Motors. It had instituted a policy that it would settle any claim under $10,000. It was cheaper to do this than pay the expense of defending legal action. The result of this was hat a business grew up of suing GM for amounts of less than $10,000. Some people were making a very good living doing this. In response top this, GM discarded this policy and created a new one in that it would defend all actions.

          This is an example of a business having a multitude of inquisitors with some of them acting in bad faith.

  57. Jonathan
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    I sent Nature a letter after their editorial

    I was appalled to read your editorial “Climatologists under pressure”
    (Nature 462, 567; 2009) with its near hysterical denunciation of anyone who dares to criticise the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). It is particularly depressing to see offensive and patronising terms such as “denialist” being applied to academics whose only fault is to take the founding principle of science, nullius in verba, more seriously that the CRU would like.

    As a young scientist I was intensely proud of my two papers in Nature and of a commissioned opinion piece, but it is hard to feel that way now. I had thought Nature was a serious scientific journal, but it seems that it is just another political magazine.

    I wasn’t expecting them to publish this, but was still a bit surprised by their eventual response

    Thank you for your submission to Nature’s Correspondence section, commenting on our recent leader ‘Climatologists under pressure’. I’m afraid that we cannot offer to publish it.

    As we have received a large number of letters in response to this editorial, we are likely to select only one or two of these for publication. Those based on unsubstantiated opinions or that are likely to fall foul of the UK’s libel laws, or are derived from views already widely aired over the internet, are not being considered.

    Thank you, however, for writing to us.

    Steve: Nature’s response is no better than the editorial.

    • curious
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

      “Thank you, however, for writing to us.” Just ran that through the Newspeak Translator (TM) and got “FO”? 🙂

    • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:12 PM | Permalink


      I’ve not commented on these threads because everyone knows what I’ll say. However, I’m equally surprised that Nature would stoop to such an asinine level as to suggest your letter libelous. [another real self snip] @@@#%@#$3

      They need to fire the individual making the false accusations ASAP. The only thing which brings calmness is that when things don’t make sense, something else is driving the discussion. These are not honest people we’re dealing with and they don’t give a S…! if you know it!

      It pisses me off endlessly when people pretend to be scientists and anyone with half a brain knows they’re acting as politicians.

      • Jonathan
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:21 PM | Permalink

        Jeff, it’s not clear to me that Nature has described my letter as libelous; I assume I just got a form reply they sent to lots of people. I have, however, written back as follows

        Thank you for your reply. For the avoidance of doubt, I would be grateful if you could clarify which if any of your three descriptions below (“based on unsubstantiated opinions”, “likely to fall foul of the UK’s libel laws”, and “derived from views already widely aired over the internet”) you believe applies to my text.

        No reply as yet.

        • Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

          That’s why I said ‘suggest’. Good luck with them but the fact that they’ve declared the email release as criminal, suggested libel and lack of understanding,out of context, for those who disagree and refused to discuss the issue rationally is enough to get me all wound up.

          I loath dishonesty. And this scientist has clearly exposed their dishonesty in the support of some hidden motive. Again, that’s why I’ve left these threads alone. If every word came out, someone would have to snip it because that’s not the point of CA.

          The article has qualities equal to that of Mann08.

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

          I wasn’t expecting them to publish this, but was still a bit surprised by their eventual response

          You weren’t expecting them to publish it in the first place, but now you open a correspondence with them to find out exactly why not?

        • ianl8888
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:01 AM | Permalink

          He has opened correspondence to understand the response, not the predictable non-publication … as you see, I detest straw men

          BTW, an easy prediction is that he will receive no further response

        • Norbert
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:34 AM | Permalink

          I’m afraid my mind won’t go there. But I agree that further responses are not to be expected.

    • harold
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

      With all those restrictions, it looks like they want only novel comments. I don’t see what is left to publish.

  58. curious
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    … mind you, look on the bright side, it seems that they are not supporters of the consensus approach to opinion forming: “or are derived from views already widely aired over the internet”.

  59. Stacey
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    I am not sure whether this is piling on or ott.

    Maybe there is something intrinsically different in the commercial world and the public sector, or just maybe certain sectors of the public sector:

    1 A client commisions a design for the structure of a building from a Structural Engineer.

    2 The building is constructed.

    3 As the building is being sold, the Client requests that the drawings, specification and calculations be released to the purchaser structural engineer for due diligence.

    What happens next is straightforward, the information is released with confidence because that is what professionals do?

  60. Skip Smith
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:29 PM | Permalink

    Someone should file a FOI request to find out how many FOI requests the CRU has received.

    • MJW
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:34 PM | Permalink

      That’s already been done. On the website there are 27 Nov. 09 requests from John Brown for the handling of FOI and EIR requests, and a 22 Dec. 09 request from Charles Arthur for a list of FOI requests.

      • Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

        Probably someone out there is considering filing a FOI request to find out (how many (FOI requests to find out how many FOI requests the CRU has received) the CRU has received) 🙂

        Recurrite ad libitum.

  61. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:41 PM | Permalink

    I’m not sure where to put this, and I don’t know if someone else has already posted it, but here’s a very interesting article on Wired which may go a long way to explaining why climate science is in the fix it is in.

    Basically they say a portion of the brain which is among the last to develop as a person is maturing, causes people to reject abberent data; that is data which disagrees with their accepted understanding of the world. They have an interesting example comparing regular a-scientific undergrads with physics majors concerning the old falling ball experiment of Galileo.

    • Hoi Polloi
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:57 PM | Permalink

      Yep I already posted that link on Dec.30th on ther Finnish TV thread, but not sure it passed McSteve’s [snip]-axe as my message containes “this message awaits moderation”. I thought that kind of moderation was only on Real Climate?

      • Dave Dardinger
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

        BTW, I’m somewhat bugged by the threading in the new system. It’s just too troublesome trying to find messages you may not have read. At least in the old system you could just go and see if there were new messages you’d missed, but now you practically have to read a whole thread, or at least scan through it looking for messages posted since you last visited which may have scrolled of the new posts. For a slow blog it’s probably better the new way, but in a fast moving blog like this you’re too likely to miss things.

        Indeed, that’s why I finally decided to post the link on the most recent thread, as more people are likely to run across it even if it scrolls too fast initially. Once a thread gets too old, people won’t think to go looking for new messages on the thread.

        Steve: For now, we’re stuck with standard WordPress. I’ve suggested that commenters stop using “Reply” and refer to the time and author that they are replying to. That would keep things in chron order which I’d prefer.

        • Calvin Ball
          Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

          It’s not ideal, but ctrl-F is your friend in a lot of these kinds of situations.

      • MrPete
        Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:08 PM | Permalink

        New features to improve readability etc will be out soon… debugging right now 🙂

        • Gardy LaRoche
          Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

          is preview one of those features ?

        • Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

          can you recapture the old system that had the “reply” hyperlink but without the nesting? BTW thanks for work already done, it’s a real help.

        • MrPete
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

          Re: Gardy, Lucy…,
          See the updated CA Assistant page.
          Preview: yes
          Reply links: yes
          Nesting and sorting: your choice
          Hide old comments: optional (makes nesting much nicer)
          Color-coded by age: optional

        • ianl8888
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

          Thanks for the work so far, but:

          the CA Assistant page says “there’s a settings button on the top right of the page” – NO, there’s not (sort of thing that constantly drives people batty)

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

          Re: ianl8888 (Jan 2 09:03),

          Are you sure you don’t have it? On my computer it’s in yellow and on the top banner which makes it easy to overlook.

        • Bob Koss
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 4:43 AM | Permalink

          Great work!

          Here is something to think about for the future if you are motivated enough.

          Using the hide old comments option I did notice if you go to a thread that hasn’t had comments within the default time-frame you have to turn off that option to see any comments.

          Would it be much work to default to showing the comments if no recent ones have been made?

          Also, if a recent comment links to an old comment in the same or different thread, does the old comment get shown?

  62. Neil Fisher
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:16 PM | Permalink

    I haven’t read the entire thread of comments, but one thing that stands out in my memory is the requests for confidentiality agreements WRT Met data from O/S (from UK point of view) agencies. IIRC, this started with a request for a list of who and when the agreements were reached with, then evolved into a series of requests for 3 countries per request. Quite a lot of requests for quite a lot of information, which IIRC, was turned down initially as “too expensive” or similar when it was made in “one lump” – hence the requests for a few countries at a time. Once again, this seems to be a case of CRU (or perhaps Jones) making it more difficult for itself than it needed to, then complaining that other people are making it hard for them.

    • curious
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

      Neil: “Quite a lot of requests for quite a lot of information” – I’m afraid I disagree; at less than 200 countries in the world this is a trivial amount of information. And for the no. of countries for whom “confidentiality agreements” actually exist it is even more trivial:

      Click to access agreements.pdf

  63. Tom FP
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

    The sort of science done by these guys ought, whenever it appears to reach a conclusion, to be published online in a form which allows the conclusion to be tested. As many contributors have pointed out, this is standard practice in other fields. Confidential research is fine, but cannot be used for public purposes. If the Hockey Team had operated in this way from the outset, they simply wouldn’t have got any FOI requests.

    So I still don’t get what is so fascinating about this FOI thing? The very existence of FOI requests, not their quality, tells us that the Hockey Team were defying scientific convention by not sharing their work. They have still not shared their work in the neat, replicable form we see from organisations such as CERN, despite 6 weeks of “tidying-up” opportunity, and the strongest possible motives for defending their science. We are entitled, until we see contrary evidence, to infer that this was because they lacked confidence in it. Can’t we leave it at that until something worth chewing on comes along?

    As for Nature, it’s defence of the Team is ludicrous, but what did you expect? It’s only one of a number of publications with warmist “form” that have, rightly or wrongly, decided that a hysterical defence of the Hockey Team is the best way to defend themselves and their credibility. Teasing away at the details of FOI requests seems to be breaking a butterfly on a wheel.

    One question I would like answered, if necessary by FOI, would be “what ‘green’ investments do/did the Hockey Team own?”

  64. Neil Fisher
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Curious: perhaps you are correct – it certainly seems so. However, 60-odd aditional requests that can be traced back to CA (as these can be) is ceratinly more than the 5 or so Steve details. I’m just suggesting that such requests, regardless of their merit or anything else, could easily be what Jones used to “show” that Steve was making vexaious requests or was orchestrating an “attack”. Of course, in context the requests are(were) clearly for the purpose of getting the data previously requested that was denied based on the agreements. It was certainly a very convoluted way to get the data and IMO should not have required FOI requests anyway, but that is beside the point – Steve was asking for information from his readers about FOI requests and how they could be considered to be “excessive”. The agreements FOI requests came to mind, and so I thought I would remind Steve of it. Of course I realise that such requests would be unlikely to get to people such as Jones – well, rather that it shouldn’t need to, but given the shocking state of (dis)organisation revealed so far by Jones and Co, maybe it really did impact him – though it didn’t need to, and IMO if it did, it’s his own doing and he could have easily avoided it had he so chosen. Which is, as I’m sure you’d agree, an accurate description of the whole sorry affair – they tried to do things “on the cheap” because they thought it important work, and when, lo and behold, they got taken seriously, their efforts at cost-cutting came back to bite them. Yet somehow, this is Steve’s fault. Go figure…

  65. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:17 PM | Permalink

    Three? Three! Good Lord – I’ve been in the environmental consulting field (on the industry side) for over 25 years. If a particular new project is “controversial,” as in a coal plant or the like, we’ll get three FOIAs per week from the Sierra Club, just for harassment’s sake. The editors of Nature need to spend some time in the real world.

    Just sayin…

  66. MJW
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:47 PM | Permalink

    Unless I’m confused, according to the CRU they received 24 FOI or EIR requests between 1 Jan 2009 and 1 Nov 2009, of which 17 were granted. In 2008, they received 1, and in 2007 they received 2.

    • Nick Stokes
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:31 PM | Permalink

      That seems to be a partial list, This thread from CA, July 2009, seems to claim over 50 were sent re confidentiality agreements alone.

      Steve: I explicitly said that this only discussed requests other than station data and unarchived IPCC comments. What part of that is so hard to understand?

    • Dave Dardinger
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

      Actually, looking at the exceptions table, it would seem that almost all likely resulted in not all data requested being released. Now it could be that many had some material released, but that remains to be seen.

  67. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    I have noticed much talk about scientists, as the exalted priests of the temple of science. But being only a lowly engineering type I think the climatologicators are a bit removed from the priesthood. As I see it, there is a lot of data, mainly temperatures collected by other people which is then massaged by known statistical methods to produce the exalted works of the climatologists.

    In the less exalted world of engineering we have done this all the time in process control by computers, for something like fifty years already. All the time missing out on the exaltation and being just lowly engineering types.

  68. thefordprefect
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:04 PM | Permalink

    A bit more info on foi counts:
    from 1228922050.txt (the full version – that from EastAngliaEmails
    Anyway requests have been of three types – observational data, paleo data and who made IPCC changes and why. Keith has got all the latter – and there have been at least 4. We made Susan aware of these – all came from David Holland.
    On observational data, there have been at least 5 including a couple from McIntyre. Others here came from Eschenbach and also Douglas Keenan.
    The latter relate to Wei-Chyung Wang, and despite his being exonerated by SUNY, Keenan has not changed his web site since being told the result by SUNY!

    So since Feb 2007, CRU is in double figures. We never get any thanks for putting things up – only abuse and threats. The latest lot is up in the last 3-4 threads on CA.
    I’ve occasionally checked DEFRA responses to FOI requests – all from Holland.

    Steve: I haven’t finished the CRU survey and asked people to hold off counting until the inventory was done.

    • WillR
      Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:27 PM | Permalink

      To The FordPrefect:

      I doubt that it’s any comfort — but (in my experience) in debates and events of this nature both sides suffer equally. The winners — often suffer through their victory and come to see it as a loss — as for any “losers” — well…

      I would think a low to moderate number would be one (FOI request) per scientist, per year — and this situation has been around for ten years, there are at least 40 scientists involved, — so take it from there. Most of those requests would be quickly resolved typically. It’s a contentious topic.

      Most of the data is in the hands of “one side” — and it’s rarely accessible. That adds to the dilemma

      I have been on both sides of debates this contentious — it’s not fun “win” or “lose”.

      Best wishes.

    • Artifex
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

      thefordprefect says:

      The latter relate to Wei-Chyung Wang, and despite his being exonerated by SUNY, Keenan has not changed his web site since being told the result by SUNY!

      This is fodder for a later thread and I don’t want to sidetrack Steve’s current thread, but it should be noted that part of the leak included internal documents on this matter and now that we can review them, perhaps there is good reason for trusting SUNY just about as much as we trust CRU. I am sure this will be addressed at some point in the future.

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

        The issue in the Wang case, the real issue on my view, is lost on just about everyone because Keenan overcharged his case. That’s all I’ll say because it is OT. There is still a story in the case, but not the “academic misconduct” one.

  69. Dave L.
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 10:31 PM | Permalink

    Michael Mann just posted a letter in the WSJ.

    I though you might be interested.

    • galileonardo
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:21 AM | Permalink

      The Mann editorial is truly remarkable, almost Twilight Zone material. Nearly all of Mann’s claims represent absolute mirror moments for him, down to the parody of the article’s title.

      To bring this back on topic though, Mann represents himself (quite poorly) and by extension his team, but Nature is supposed to be beyond the individuals, and thus beyond the pettiness and peer-pressure and other shallow human traits that complicate the understanding of complex issues.

      It is therefore reprehensible that Nature’s editorial takes such an anti-science stance. It is unforgivable and it greatly diminishes Nature’s already diminished prestige. I look forward to seeing how they might possibly defend having published this editorial, but they have done themselves and their subscribers and the scientific method itself a great disservice by running interference for the Team.

      The following bears repeating and often. If Nature had itself enforced its own policies regarding availability of data and materials and peer review, much of this would have been unnecessary and I believe that is the crux of the matter. Rather than accept the possibility that their methodology is heavily flawed, it is apparently much easier for them to reduce themselves to the “denialist” game. To quote Mr. Mann, the Team apparently “found a solution…take over a journal.” Nature was, after all, the birthplace of the “trick” so I suppose it should not be a surprise that they would join the wagon train. But that doesn’t make it any less abominable.

      • P Gosselin
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

        Only snipped words can express what I feel reading that piece.

      • Jumbo
        Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

        The more that Nature (and Mann) each speak out with unpersuasive opinion pieces, the better. Their reasonings and excuses are deeply flawed and very revealing.

        There will be very well educated people from other fields who will be taken aback to hear of the excuses. These people may for years have assumed that Global Warming had some factual basis, since it is a little hard to imagine Nature being taken over by people who would conjure up a trendy scare to serve politicians.

        Its is interesting to realize how a relatively small circle of “climate experts” were able to persuade Nature, the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, etc., that world economy needed massive alteration.

        There need to be some thorough investigations, not just at East Anglia and Penn State Universities, but of the Royal Society, the journal Nature, and the Economist magazine. With any luck, David Cameron will become Prime Minister in 2010 and can commission thorough, honest inquiries.

    • P Gosselin
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

      I don’t believe the Journal is going to let that be the last word.
      Mann did not provide any evidence of other scientists being political.
      One thing I admit though: he sure has a way of making´firends one does not need.

  70. Jumbo
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:10 PM | Permalink

    Prof. Mann deserves some credit for chutzpah. He seems a pathetic phony, but disparages others as mere industry-funded “politicians” whose views “pollute.” Anyone who does not agree with HIM has to be corrupt. This is detached from reality.

    Its nice to see him out there writing OP-Eds, letters, huffing and puffing, trying to fix his now for-ever shattered reputation. Its all about his ego.

  71. Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 11:40 PM | Permalink

    A different sort of count would be interesting: We’ve seen the substantial numbers of emails in which the participants spend time and effort avoiding/foiling/subvertnig FOI requests. How many emails were there in which one of the researchers is genuinely requesting someone else’s assistance to produce data?

    There seem to be “few if any” such instances in this set; it’s typically discussions of what circumstance that they can “hide behind” but with little thought given to actually complying. There are a few references to how much time it takes them, but these seem to be driven by the fact that the data and code are not provided, and that gives rise to questions.

    Thus, the basic premise of the editorial — that honest compliance is onerous — seems to fall away. There is little evidence supporting ANY time spent in the activity Nature complains about. Time avoiding compliance should not count.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

  72. nagard
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:40 AM | Permalink

    As an example, try to get data from oil production and oil reserves through FOIA requests; you would be laughed at. And that is a way more important topic for the future of our consumptive society than any trivial little issues that you are trying to address.

    • theduke
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

      That is a bogus analogy. We are not talking about private companies guarding proprietary information upon which important business decisions are based. We are talking about people on government payrolls creating science that governments around the world are relying on to formulate policy that deeply affects us all.

    • David S
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

      And their auditors have to sign off “true and fair” for public consumptoion.

    • Dan S
      Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

      I realize responding to this is OT, but as someone who works in the industry, I must say how incredibly naive Nagard is in regard to this. Production data is available and public in every State and Province I know of. Reserves are audited in both public and private corporations by independent qualified engineers and accountants. The SEC has become a real stickler on reserves since Enron.

  73. Stephan
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

    Re Mann’s letter in WSJ…After looking at all the temp and ice data, graphs and extremely careful and detailed analysis of the models and prehistoric markers by statisticians and “climate scientists” and the fact that the weather over the past 57 years of my life does not appear to be in the slightest way different, I find it incredible that Mann still doesn’t seem to “get it”. Anyway I admire his resilience, but it is wrong placed.

  74. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

    This might be relevant later in the series of FOI counts.

    One simple email of about 8 lines from me to University of East Anglia, which did not even mention FOI, was answered by an FOI officer. He used his position to class this as an FOI request, but by my measure it should not enter the total.

    The thread is about the number of FOI requests submitted, not about the number that Parties took upon themselved to answer as FOI material.

    • Tom FP
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

      Your case perfectly illustrates why all this FOI wrangling is moot. What matters is why these guys wouldn’t answer questions, not obsessing about one particular means that they used to evade them.

  75. Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

    Regarding Mann’s WSJ letter, how does one become a “climate science denier”? Does that mean you deny the existence of climate science? Talk about setting up an absurd dichotomy.

    Of course what he really means is someone who denies the validity of his particular interpretation of what constitutes climate “science”, which is, “the stuff I publish.”

    As for appealing to John Holdren’s assessment of the contribution of Pat Michaels to the field of applied climatology over the years, I doubt Holdren has even read any of it, let alone published anything himself of comparable value. And it’s rather rich for Mann to invoke the opinion of a politically-appointed advisor to a politician as part of his argument about the importance of keeping politics out of the discussion. The fact that Mann evidently didn’t see that invoking Holdren is a form of political rhetoric reveals Mann’s own political presuppositions.

    • Calvin Ball
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

      Mann gets the millennial chutzpah award for this:

      Society relies upon the integrity of the scientific literature to inform sound policy. It is thus a serious offense to compromise the peer-review system in such a way as to allow anyone—including proponents of climate change science—to promote unsubstantiated claims and distortions.

    • TerryMN
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

      Perhaps Dr. Mann would be well served by taking courses in logic (to learn to avoid ad hom arguments), English (to learn to avoid non-sequiters such as “climate science deniers”), and statistics (to learn to avoid algorithms such as his PC1).

      Maybe Dr. Steig should expand his course offerings beyond Matlab?

    • Arn Riewe
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

      Dear Dr. Mann,

      The hole is deep enough now. I suggest you stop digging.

      Just sayin’

    • GrantB
      Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

      Dr Mann is getting yet another thorough pasting in WSJ comments

  76. HotRod
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:41 PM | Permalink

    A Climate Science denier. My word. Either a) nonsense, or b) repetition of ‘the science is in’, so any questions must be denial.

    Extraordinary phrase.

  77. Keith Herbert
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:25 PM | Permalink

    Nature asserts climate scientists’ work is impeded by endless requests. Steve believes there is no evidence to show the scientists were impeded as they mostly didn’t comply with the requests. Nature has done nothing to clarify this.

    But what is Nature’s point with their initial assertion? In their description, scientists are forced to deal with detailed scrutiny and are unable to move on with their work. Isn’t that part of the scientist’s job: answering sufficiently to support their work or correct flaws? So they and others shouldn’t be expanding, with prior work as a foundation, until their initial work has been substantially scrutinized.

  78. liamascorcaigh
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 1:33 PM | Permalink

    Nature’s editorializing is asinine and dishonest but that’s irrelevant. They are not trying to persuade. They are rather rallying their ideologically compliant troops. They are obfuscating and redherringizing to cloud the issues, supplying AGW proponents with Weapons of Mass Confusion. They especially like occupying the High Moral Ground. This tactic entails overlooking egregious breaches of proper standards of behavior by those they support while latching onto (or conjuring up out of whole cloth) some minor marginal infringement by those they oppose and turning it into a “smoking gun” of profound consequence. which vindicates there cause while avoiding discussion of the fundamentals of their position.

    In other words, Nature’s editor(s) are engaging in the rhetoric of political discourse not in a straightforward exchange of views that normal people have in the real world. The success of this tactic here lies in diverting an honest man like Steve McIntyre from pursuing his central purpose of getting to the truth behind the AGW science. Instead he expends much valuable toil and time and invaluable expertise hooking their red herring. This is of course a legitimate exercise in itself, especially from the sociological perspective, but it is inconsequential to the central issues of the AGW debate.

    As several commenters have said FOIA requests are a matter of law and to debate their appropriateness is to accept, albeit tacitly, a frame of reference which seeks to provisionalize such requests by hemming them about with arbitary (eg their frequency, multiplicity, origin et) contingencies that would render the FOIA process meaningless.

    Put another way, to even debate this question is to cede the very ground you seek to defend before you start. You end up – as many commenters have – arguing about numbers, frequency over time, ratio of requests to CRU researchers, comparisons with other departments and agencies, and such folderol. But who is to say what is too much? 10? 20? 100? And over what period? Each will necessarily have his own, quite non-validatable, cut off. The whole debate will degenerate into random anecdotalism and remarks of the “my uncle Fred in the XYZ Institute does such-and-such” variety.

    In a nutshell this is a TWOT*.

    *Total Waste Of Time

    • ianl8888
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 5:45 PM | Permalink


      I’ve asked thefordprefect twice now how he knows the CRU dump is not an inside leak … the question is not even acknowledged, let alone answered but red herrings abound

      This tactic characterises the broader issues. I can’t see a way to change that

      • Ed Snack
        Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 2:03 AM | Permalink

        Ford, you seem to have a mental block. Can you get it through your defenses that CRU is a publicly funded institution, ALL, let me repeat that, ALL, of the emails prepared and sent using their email systems are therefore subject to public scrutiny via the FOIA and related acts. There simply are no grounds to claim confidentiality, your citations are, quite simply, incorrect.

        Can you at least acknowledge that the data should be publicly available and that their efforts to prevent the same are improper ? What could possibly be the problem in releasing the data, surely you wouldn’t claim that they have improperly treated the adta, so what could possibly bbe the motibve for refusing to release it ?

        • thefordprefect
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

          FOI in the UK was fully implemented in 2005. The Act was partially implemented in 2000. Not sure how this effects what is made available?

          A FOIA has to explicitly state what data is requested. Some of the hacked data will not have been requested explicitly. This data is illegally obtained.

          I agree that Universities in the UK now fall under the FOI.

          I agree that the FOI NOW states that data provided to such places Must be freely available to FOI. I do not know what happens to data provided under commercial agreements before 2000/2005. This FOI requirement fill stop free exchange of some data. A commercial organisation will not provide costly data to a place subject to FOI if it knows that this data will then be freely available.

          All data should be on-line
          All code should be on-line
          All raw data should be on-line
          All technical literature should be brought out from behind paywalls

          BUT there then has to be restrictions on being forced to provide backup info (pople clearly incapable of using the data add vast overheads to researchers work) e.g computer helplines : A Dell customer called to say he couldn’t get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the “send” key. And take a look at some of the comments on WUWT!.

          Steve: As you do too often, you’ve provided an irrelevant example. The FOI requests that are on the table were specific and in some cases asked no more than access to data that had already been sent to others.

        • TerryMN
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 12:30 PM | Permalink

          A Dell customer…

          Spare us the strawmen, please. Thank you.

        • Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

          But then – is this really only a strawman argument?

          It shouldn’t be too difficult technically to set up ALL computers in ALL places for which FOI applies in such a way that whoever likes to have a peek has full read-only access to all drives and folders via the internet? There should be no possibility of sending “private” messages or data from any machine in the relevant office/lab buildings, or to encrypt data sent or stored in such machines – if people want to talk privately or secretly, they should do that from their home PCs anyway and not during work hours.

          This way all their data and work would become public domain the moment it is generated, doing away with the need for “cumbersome” FOI correspondence.

        • TerryMN
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

          But then – is this really only a strawman argument?

          It’s a classic strawman…

          BUT there then has[sic] to be restrictions on being forced to provide backup info… A (very stupid, very irrelevant) Dell customer…

          i.e. there are some very stupid people in the world, ergo these scientists should not have to bother with FOIA requests, regardless of the requester’s intelligence or the merits of a particular request. Pay no attention to the man behind the thermometer.

        • curious
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

          “BUT there then has to be restrictions on being forced to provide backup info (pople clearly incapable of using the data add vast overheads to researchers work)…”

          Provided one can read, the content and implications of “confidentiality agreements” should be intelligible to most people interested enough to request them. Or should they only be released to those bilingual in English and Spanish?:

          Click to access agreements.pdf

      • InvestInLead
        Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 3:03 AM | Permalink

        Misdirection attempted again – and Failed.

        DOE funded their research – they are responsible to provide it to US citizens that paid for it – they Failed.

        It drives public policy – They have a scientific burden to supply the data – and Failed.

        There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics – They Failed.

      • ianl8888
        Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

        Where’s the answer to my question – you know that the CRU email dump was not an inside leak, how ?

        • ianl8888
          Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 9:24 AM | Permalink

          There’s no doubt that the email dump was illegal (and nobody’s saying it was legal, despite fordprefect’s straw man), but that does NOT exclude an inside leak

          At this point, we don’t know who or how

          And, of course, all whistle-blowing is initially considered illegal, just as outside hacking is

    • Norbert
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:03 PM | Permalink

      I don’t quite get your point. Are you saying editorials can’t question the value of specific groups of FOI requests simply because they are a “matter of law” ?

      • ianl8888
        Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 10:41 PM | Permalink

        You’re at it, too

        The question is: you know that the CRU dump is NOT an inside leak, how ?

        Do try to keep up, please

        • Norbert
          Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 12:40 AM | Permalink

          ianl8888 , I responded to liamascorcaigh, not to you. I don’t see any connection between you reply and my repsonse to liamascorcaigh. (Maybe you responded to the wrong message?)

    • snowmaneasy
      Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 4:28 AM | Permalink

      I agree completely, Steve is very concerned about Nature’s position/statement, but you (liamascorcaigh) are absolutely correct in saying “to even debate this question (about FOI) is to cede the very ground you seek to defend before you start.”

      FOI legislation in the various countries is LAW and is not open to debate, regardless of the volume, nature of the requests etc etc…Steve HAS been diverted by Nature’s statement….for a journal of this stature to express an opinion (any opinion for that matter) that they did is saying that they are qualified to do so…..which is incorrect….the editors are just the editors…..we may as well ask the people that bind and print the actual journal what they think about climategate….its like a game of cricket…we are playing the game, the editors of Nature are not, they just keep the score…we are not interested in what they think……and they should not be allowed to vent their opinions and for these opinions to creep out under the umbrella of the Journal…’s like thinking Russell Crowe is John Nash in the film Beautiful Mind…he isn’t and we mustn’t be tricked into thinking he is…

  79. jae
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    Re: Dave Dardinger
    Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 5:41 PM

    Wow, that article you linked should be required reading for everyone!

  80. StuartR
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    Re: jae
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 2:01 PM
    I agree about that article, required reading, I’d never heard the Feynman quote:

    “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.”

  81. Douglas Kubler
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 4:58 PM | Permalink

    Nature’s editorial shows the extent of the AGW belief system. When a science journal calls skeptics “paranoid denialists” it’s not a science journal. To use the results of computer models as a definitive rebuttal is ludicrous:

    “But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming”

    No need to list reasons why the models or the observations could be wrong.

    As another indicator of the AGW belief system at Nature check out Nature’s YouTube channel:
    The lead stories are Copenhagen and Climate Change (multiple reports) and there’s no doubt that AGW rules.

  82. Anand Rajan KD
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:21 PM | Permalink

    Regarding Mann’s WSJ letter, how does one become a “climate science denier”?

    The meme also reveals another deeper strand in the alarmist logic. When one questions alarmist ‘climate change’ exhortations, one automatically becomes a ‘science denier’. And thereby an ignorant fool, Luddite etc etc.

  83. Dave McK
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

    I know this is a little OT, but in re the whistleblower-
    Paul Hudson at BBC claims he had the emails since October 12th. He just forgot to mention it until the files showed up chez JeffID.
    Noting that the most recent of the files is dated November, one might be tempted to assume that whoever sent the files to Hudson in October was collecting additional files while he waited in vain for BBC to act responsibly.
    That does suggest that the whistleblower had handy access and was watching for more to collect, which he did, if the dates and assertions of Hudson and the emails are true.

    • Alan S. Blue
      Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

      If I read correctly, that isn’t quite complete Dave. Paul Hudson had some of the emails. As in: they were forwarded by some of the participants directly. Much like Steve has some of the emails – because he was the sender.

      At least, it doesn’t sound to me like Paul had the bulk of the leak, so much as Paul was just verifying the authenticity of the couple of emails he had personal knowledge of.

      • Dave McK
        Posted Jan 3, 2010 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

        You are right. I checked.
        Paul was the first to verify the authenticity of any of the emails. The link he gives to what he says is the ‘chain of emails’ he received is this:

        Paul said “I was forwarded the chain of e-mails on the 12th October”

        The first email was from Narasimha D. Rao to Stephen H Schneider on the 11th. It was an alert of a skeptical report on the BBC by Hudson.

        The second email was Schneider to ‘all’
        (“Hi all”) – soliciting someone to straighten out Mr. Hudson. That appears to have been forwarded. All the remaining emails appear to be Oct. 14th, which Paul would not have known about if he received his copy on the 12th, as he said.
        These are the list of cc recipients:
        Cc: Tom Wigley , Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , “Philip D. Jones” , Benjamin Santer , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer
        Paul Hudson is not on the cc list, so it was either one of the people on the list who sent him a copy or it was an unknown person privy to the emails at East Anglia. The known possible sources seem unlikely. It’s a mystery to contemplate.
        K – I’m sorry for so much OT stuff. This belongs with a thread on questions about the whistleblower/haxxor.

  84. Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

    I’ve fought long and hard against this, but it’s time to admit that Mann is not only completely correct, he has underestimated the scope of the problem. I’m not just a climate science denier–I’m a climate denier… there ain’t no such thing. There is no climate, I tell you. None. Nowhere. Nohow. And I’ll bet I’m not alone…

  85. Calvin Ball
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

    Reading all of the competing claims, it seems to me that the problem here is that we’re running two separate questions together. This first question is, is this information private, or subject to FIOA? The second question is, is it onerous to furnish it to the public.

    If you can answer the first question, then the answer to the second one is no, because public information simply goes on a public website, thus avoiding all FIOA requests. If you’ve correctly identified all information potentially subject to FIOA, and publicly posted it, you won’t get any legitimate FOIA requests.

    If you do that, the only requests will be illegitimate, in which case, an administrative assistant should be able to handle the refusal communications. You only have a problem when you start refusing legitimate requests. That can get to be time-consuming.

    You can argue separately whether it’s reasonable to be required to furnish a particular piece of information to the public, but sorry, that’s already a done deal. That’s not negotiable. Judging from the emails, it seems like that’s what Jones didn’t accept.

  86. Denny
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

    I would like to take this time to wish you Steve, your family and all the other people here that help Steve to make things happen here…Have a Happy New Year and that our direction may be even more defined towards AGW…See ya next year…:)

  87. hemst101
    Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

    Canadian Man of the Year — Stephen McIntyre.

    Might want to correct him on this though:

    “He has worked for years to debunk Global Warming….”

    Happy New Year Steve

  88. Kate
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 12:01 AM | Permalink

    The New Climate Litigation

    I so hope someone will go on over to WSJ and help out DiNovis as he struggles on alone. They are arguing about what it meant to hide the decline. I posted the Daily News link.

  89. Maskera
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 5:37 AM | Permalink


    AGW funural nr 5

  90. Madoff's Fun
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

    Poor Bernie Madoff, he is being victimized by a similar witch-hunt!

  91. Madoff's Fan
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    If you want to understand the mindset of these “scientists” no better example is Wikipedia activity of William M. Connolley who is an inner circle member of their leadership. He is their PR guy who insures that Wikipedia and similar sources do not deviate from the correct doctrine.

    • Syl
      Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

      Wow – a true crusader.

  92. Jimchip
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    Ross McKitrick Posted Dec 31, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    Still regarding Mann’s WSJ letter but focussing on “John Holdren’s assessment”.
    [ Search: Holdren, for anyone that hasn’t read them.]

    Perhaps Mann’s Letter betrays a form a speech beyond mere rhetoric.

    My point is that what could have been legitimate scientific criticism (on both ‘sides’) was already overlapping with politically hyperbolic speech and attitudes, at least as early as 2003 ( wrt Soon and Baliunas). Hyperboles like ‘demolished’ are political speech. Terms like ‘unequivocal’, the same. They are not “Terms of Art” in science. I have to interpret ‘assessments’ against P. Michaels, a scientist (who may also have political opinions) by a politician, J. Holdren, as being beyond “political rhetoric”. I’m not trying to put too fine a point on particular words or terms.

    • WillR
      Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

      To pull this part back on topic…

      It appears that the process had been politicized long before that date. It would be reasonable to do an FOIA request to access the data and to determine that the calculations were correct and meaningful — even within the terms of reference of the IPCC investigations.
      Dr. Tim Ball commented recently on the political process and how it had affected the science.

      It makes for interesting reading in light of the WSJ letter by Mann.

  93. Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    The advancement of science is based on building on other scientists previous work. As Sir Issac Newton said, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

    Scientists, even though they may skeptics (“climate-change-denialist fringe”) should not have to resort to FOI actions to obtain data and methods and whatever else when the science is funded by us, the taxpayer.

    Steve, You probably have the most expertise and experience in this area, could you define what should be available when a paper is published? This should be defined in legislation for grants and in the requirements for technical publications. I would like to think that your readers would assist in a letter-writing campaign to their legislators, but we need a clear statement of what to ask for. There is currently a bill, Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009 (S.1373),(see, which proposes public access to “make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet.” Perhaps the requirement for data archiving could be made part of that bill.

    Thanks for all the great work that you do and have a Happy New Year.

    If agencies and journals enforced existing data archiving requirements, a lot would be solved. Much of the problem originates from agencies (espcially NSF) abdicating their obligation to ensure data archiving under existing policies.

  94. P Gosselin
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    Initially I was quite irritated by Mann’s attitude towards different views. His tone and choice of words betray professionalism in science. Is writing such an editorial a way to gain the respect from others in the field? No. Scientists are waking up. That’s good.
    The number of professional colleagues who feel put off by his tactics might be his next hockey stick. “Those who live by the swotd, die by the swotd.”

  95. Curt Covey
    Posted Jan 1, 2010 at 1:51 PM | Permalink


    I am very glad to see you engaging the issue of what is a reasonable data-sharing request. In my opinion it is not a simple legalistic question. The US FOI as I understand it simply requires a data dump without comments, let alone guidience for users. As you and I have noted in correspondence re the CMIP3 / IPCC AR4 database of climate model output, even a great deal of work to make scientific data comprehensible can leave users wishing for more.

    So, reaching the point where climateauditors can do useful things with the data will require going beyond the letter of the law. This in turn requires taking the issue beyond the blogs and the lawyers, and starting a discussion in the pages of scientific journals like Nature. Try writing them a short leter (not a “research letter” but a newspaper-style letter to the editor). They have published critical letters from me and my friends in the past. I’ll bet they publish yours if you put on your lets-be-reasonable hat when you write it.

    With best wishes for the New Year,

    Steve: Curt, what is the purpose of the term “climateauditor” in this context? In the main issue in controversy, Jones had sent data to “friends” but was unwilling to send the same data to people who he perceived as being potentially critical. I don’t see any purpose in trying to establish a code for data formats when the “community” is publicly incapable of condemning such behavior. There is no need for another committee or another review. What is needed is for “community” climate scientists to speak out publicly. No more “silence of the lambs”. A letter from you would be more effective than a letter from me.

    • Curt Covey
      Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

      By “climateauditor” I mean a person without a PhD climate-related science, but willing and able (with help) to work through the data. One could say “someone like Steve,” but actually our typical user in this category was a biologist or social scientist assessing climate-change impacts. I think we were helpful to such people, as well as to climate skeptics without too much modeling experience (e.g. Lindzen and Choi, Geophys Res Lett 36, L16705, 2009). I believe that helping such people is a goal worth pursuing, but the CMIP experience shows that it requires much more than conforming to the FOI. It requires dedicated time from mainstream scientists — which means dedicated money from DOE, NASA, NSF, etc. I’d be glad to write a letter to Nature saying so.

      Steve: Curt, once again, you are confusing different issues. I’m sorry to be abrupt but your proposed letter would totally misrepresent the CRU situation and seems all too typical of climate scientist spin. The CMIP experience has precisely NOTHING to do with the paleoclimate experience.

      In paleoclimate, we’re talking about authors sending data sets to the friends that they are unwilling to send to critics. These are pretty simple data sets and do not present any handling problems comparable to CMIP handling.

      By conflating the CMIP issues with the simple paleoclimate and station data issues, you would confuse matters.

  96. Bob MacLean
    Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 4:45 AM | Permalink

    A search on the UK website for Climatic Research Unit produces 102 matches for FOI Requests made through that site. Many of these will not, of course, have been directed specifically to the Climatic Research Unit unit, but will have made reference to it. I noticed one from Anthony Watts.

  97. Bob Koss
    Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 5:06 AM | Permalink

    MrPete (Dec 30 21:08), I just tried out using the nested and hide old comments options at the same time. It seems if the top-level comment is out of the time-frame the newer sub-comments are also hidden. They seem to be mutually exclusive, so you should only use one or the other, not both.

  98. Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 6:03 AM | Permalink

    Bob MacLean #4.45

    The question at issue is whether the CRU has had an undue burden of FoI requests. As you suggest, requests to, say, the Met Office or Defra that mention CRU are not relevant. So my original figure of 10 requests through WDTK prior to Climategate is right, I think.

    • Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

      Well, as anyone knows, 10 requests will quickly fill up an ivory tower mailbox.

    • Bob MacLean
      Posted Jan 2, 2010 at 1:30 PM | Permalink

      Absolutely right, Bishop Hill (and Jeff Alberts. I should have included that caveat in my post. Thanks for mentioning the website. It’s doubly useful because it enables any interested party to see what has previously been requested. Perhaps a Lister with more knowledge than me could have a quick trawl to see if any of the requests have thrown up anything new or interesting.

  99. Phil B.
    Posted Jan 3, 2010 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

    Who actually wrote the editorials? I didn’t see any names associated but the spin is consistent.

  100. Steven Mosher
    Posted Jan 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Permalink


    I apologize for the slightly OT post, But I got a request for extension today:

    (Our ref: FOI_09-187)
    Your request for information of 5 December 2009 is under consideration and we are currently assessing whether, if held, it is in the public interest to provide the information. Pursuant to section 10(3) of the Act, I am writing to you to inform you that, due to the complexity of the issue at hand, and the approaching closure of the University over the holidays, it is anticipated that this assessment will require an additional twenty (20) working days to complete above and beyond the original statutory timeframe of 20 working days. I apologise for the late notification of this extension but the need for it did not become apparent until very recently.
    We certainly hope to provide you with a response prior to this and should this timescale need to be revised you will be advised as to the reasons and provided with a revised timescale.
    I will write to you as soon as possible with the outcome of the assessment.
    If you have any queries or concerns, then please contact me at:
    University of East Anglia
    NR4 7TJ
    Telephone: +44 (0)160 359 3523
    Further information is also available from the Information Commissioner at: Information Commissioner’s Office
    Wycliffe House
    Water Lane
    SK9 5AF
    Telephone: +44 (0)1625 545 745

  101. Posted Jan 24, 2010 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    There’s now a response to an FOI request submitted by Charles Arthur asking for a list of FOI requests received by UEA that relate to CRU:

    Note that he specifically askeds for all requests going back to the commencement of FOI. The first request they detail in their response is for 2007.

    Doing a quick count of the response it seems there were 105 requests for information about CRU, which on the face of it does seem quite a lot of paperwork for these poor, hard-working scientists.

    If you look just a tiny bit closer, though, you see that there were 4 in 2007, 2 in 2008 and all the rst were in 2009 – mostly, it seems, after “Climategate” hit the news.

    So, it would appear that their complaints avbout endless and unreasonable FOI requests were, at most, based on:

    2007: 1 regarding Durbin-Watson statistics (released): FOI_07-21
    3 regarding station data (all refused): FOI_07-04, -09 and -13

    2008: 1 regarding data sets (refused): FOI_08-50
    1 regarding CRU correspondence (refused): FOI_08-23

    Which hardly seems like an ecxessively onerous distraction!

  102. Posted Mar 2, 2010 at 3:13 AM | Permalink

    When is someone going to tell the science community that an FOI request does not have to have anything to do with some form of expression related to ‘academic interest’? A basic principle behind most FOI legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information, not the person asking for it. The requester does not usually have to give an explanation for their request, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given. It matters little what the requester will legally do with the information or even the purpose of the request. It is up to the organisation as to whether or not they can find a plausible reason to reject the FOI request. If they cannot find such a reason then they must release the requested information. This spurious claim by the science community that the release of information must be for ‘academic purposes’ is simply rubbish.

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